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Nats should quit trying to sound like Students

National should quit trying to sound like the University Students' Association

The National Party should quit trying to sound like the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA), says Education Forum policy advisor Norman LaRocque.

National Party leader Bill English has criticised the government for not offering the "promised relief for [our] tertiary students" and "instead [paving] the way for huge fee increases".

Mr LaRocque said the Leader of the Opposition's comments clearly showed the significant road that lay ahead for the National Party in developing a coherent and soundly-based policy package that is focused on the wider national interest.

"Rather than calling for 'relief' for tertiary students, the National Party should be developing ways of addressing the serious under-achievement at earlier levels of education, particularly among Maori. In 2001, fully one-third of Maori left school without a qualification."

The gap in educational outcomes between New Zealand's top performers and those at the bottom is significant. Addressing that issue should be a much greater priority than shopping for votes among the NZUSA leadership or abolishing Maori electoral seats, Mr LaRocque said.

"More tertiary funding won't do much for those who never get near a tertiary institution. The budget already includes too much spending on tertiary education. More would be even less justified. Mr English should get his priorities straight," he said.

"Those who call for more tertiary spending should also recognise the significant contribution that taxpayers already make to the cost of students' tertiary education - over $10,500 per student per year in 2002/03 and rising. This represents at least 70 percent of the total direct costs of tertiary education.

"The government has included some useful initiatives to address school level issues in this budget at the school level. This should be recognised. But much more remains to be done."

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