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Link Between Poverty And Learning Difficulties

April 29th, 2008

From NZEI Te Riu Roa

Report Underlines Link Between Poverty And Learning Difficulties

The latest report by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) underlines the fact that children who live in poverty find it harder to learn, the education union NZEI Te Riu Roa says.

The CPAG report says at least one in five children in New Zealand is living in poverty while 185,000 are living with severe or significant hardship.

NZEI President Frances Nelson says Auckland University research shows that the home and broader environment of students accounts for about 60 percent of the variance in student achievement.

“Great teaching can make a big difference and we need to continue to build a strong and capable teaching workforce. But without urgent work on the social factors which affect student learning, children’s education will still suffer.”

The CPAG report says between 2000 and 2004, the number of children living in poverty increased by a third, with the children of beneficiaries the worst affected.
NZEI, which represents 48,000 teachers and support staff in early childhood, kindergarten, and primary education, says the situation is likely to worsen with the rising costs of food, petrol and rent, putting more and more families under pressure. This will affect student performance and achievement.

Ms Nelson has just returned from a study tour of Finland, which has the highest student achievement levels in the OECD and consistently performs at the top of international educational assessments.

“Finland has dealt with many social factors to such a degree that the gap between rich and poor is much narrower than we experience in NZ. This fact, along with other supportive legislation and social provision results in children at school ready and able to learn.”

She says parents, the community and the government in New Zealand need to work towards the same goal.

“As a society we need to ensure that children and well fed, well housed and well-clothed so they can get the most out of their learning. We need a wider social and government commitment to improving the lot of all New Zealand families and communities,” Ms Nelson says.


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