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Labour Starts “Friends of Private Education” Lobby

Labour Starts “Friends of Private Education” Lobby Group

We are astonished that the Labour government is working hard to form a “Friends of Private Education” lobby group to push for more private sector involvement in education worldwide in the current GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) negotiations at the World Trade Organisation.

New Zealand education is already under threat through GATS. Although the original commitments the government made under GATS in 1994 cover “private education” only, the changes in government funding since then mean that any part of our public education system will struggle to be exempted.

Already the government funds all sectors of education – public and private – on a commercial or semi-commercial basis through market based mechanisms. This is in itself enough to place our public schools, polytechs, universities and pre-schools under threat from foreign predation.

Added to this is the real danger that the momentum which could be built by this initiative would bring greater pressure for the commercialisation of all aspects of education in New Zealand.

Already the government is struggling with issues of quality in tertiary education where private providers have for several years fleeced New Zealand taxpayers and students. In a Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) report released in June the TEC reported that of the 480 Private Training Establishment (PTE) qualifications reviewed to that point a staggering 64% were found to be of low quality or low relevance. On top of this the TEC reported that some PTE’s withdrew qualifications before they were assessed because they knew they would not meet the TEC criteria. We can only guess that the 64% figure would be much higher were these qualifications taken into account.

This is an educational disaster which should never have been allowed to happen. The public has had a stomach-full of low quality tertiary courses funded by taxpayers.

Despite all this Labour is forging ahead with unqualified support for big business involvement in education. Labour’s “Friends of Private Education Exports” lobby group will be a selection of individuals representing big business interests.

In a document released on the new initiative Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials claim that “New Zealand will not use the group to advocate commitments on public education”. This has a hollow ring given the existing threats outlined above and the knowledge that in a previous round of negotiations Labour requested the European Union countries open up their public education systems to foreign businesses!

QPEC will resist all moves by Labour to play fast and loose with education in the interests of a wealthy elite of businessmen.

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