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Innovative policy ideas on education


1 June 2005

Innovative policy ideas on education

A new education report, Freedom for Schools, released by the Maxim Institute this week makes several innovative policy recommendations to help bring the education system into line with what parents want—specifically to improve the ability of schools to operate in the way that best suits their local community.

Based on the results of a Colmar Brunton survey of 1001 parents in New Zealand, the key findings of the report and policy recommendations are:

• 76% of parents think that schools should be permitted to specialise in particular subject areas or sport, if they choose to do so.

Maxim recommends that where schools wish to offer excellence in a particular subject, sport, or the performing arts, they should be encouraged by the Ministry of Education and given freedom over their finances and the curriculum.
• Only a minority of parents (31%) said they have confidence in the value of the NCEA. Few parents (27%) thought that the NCEA provides a clear measure of a pupil’s abilities. 79% of parents believe schools should be free to offer alternative examinations to the NCEA.

Maxim suggests that schools should be free to offer alternatives to the NCEA and should not be obliged to offer a qualification from the National Qualification Framework. The NCEA will still be an option for schools, but the narrow definition of a "nationally recognised" qualification must be widened to allow the inclusion of alternative qualifications.

• 84% of parents believe that schools should be allowed to teach their community’s values.

The values underlying schooling should be determined locally to reflect the positive values of the community. The Ministry of Education should not specify particular values to be taught in New Zealand schools. Rather, school communities should be able to integrate values suitable to their particular context. In addition, Maxim recommends that integrated schools need restrictive roll caps lifted and new special character schools should be allowed to open where there is community demand.

Maxim Institute encourages all political parties to seriously consider what parents want because they are the key stakeholders in their children’s education. As a think-tank, we are pleased to make available Freedom for schools as a resource for anyone with an interest in education.


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