April 13 2005
National's Education Policies Have Failed Here And Overseas
The country's largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, can not believe that the National Party wants to privatise schools and introduce vouchers and a testing regime for seven year old primary students, as these policies have been tried overseas and failed.
"These proposals fly in the face of both research and overseas examples of excellence in public education," says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Colin Tarr. Don Brash also announced today that if elected his party would resurrect policies such as bulk funding of teachers salaries, a policy National introduced in the 1990s, that was scrapped because it also failed.
Dr Brash said that if by the age of seven a child did not meet a national benchmark for reading and maths their parents would be given vouchers so the child would be able to get private tutoring.
"We believe that the voucher money should be given to schools to lower class sizes and provide focussed professional development for teachers. This approach produced significant improvements in the reading skills of six year old children involved in a literacy project at schools in Mangere and Otara," says Colin Tarr.
He says introducing vouchers so children who failed the reading and maths tests can get private tutoring shows that National's agenda is to privatise education.
"Once again vouchers have been tried overseas, most notably in the United States, and have failed. Vouchers are a device governments use to privatise education. They do not improve education quality."
Terry Price, the president of the Canadian Teachers Federation, who's visiting New Zealand, says she's seen the damage caused by standardised testing of students in Canada. She says students become highly stressed and disengaged from learning because there is so much focus on performing well in the tests.
Terry says the Trust School concept that National proposes to establish are known as charter schools in Canada and the United States and have been a failure. The largest charter school in Alberta lasted only two years before it was shut down because of serious financial and governance problems.
"The testing regime for seven year olds, vouchers, bulk funding teacher salaries, Trust Schools, scraping zones, undermining teachers collective employment agreements, attacking unions, this all adds up to one thing. National wants to privatise New Zealand's state schools."
"National's proposals will not improve the quality of education in our schools. They would simply enable National, if it was elected, to absolve itself of any responsibility to properly resource the public education system," says Colin Tarr.