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Pacific Education Ministers Forum Dinner - Mallard

Hon Trevor Mallard Speech Notes

Pacific Education Ministers Forum Dinner, Auckland University

While New Zealand is not the official host of the forum, I am pleased to be able to officially welcome you to New Zealand.

I am sorry that we were not able to meet in Niue, and I thank Hon Young Vivian for still agreeing to chair this meeting.

Auckland is a city that has become a melting pot of cultures from all around the World and especially from countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Nowhere is the diversity of cultures more apparent than in our schools. It is not uncommon for a school, particularly in this city, to have children from more than 30 ethnic backgrounds on their rolls.

New Zealand teachers are adapting to having children from many cultures in their classrooms. I feel very proud when I walk into these classrooms. I feel proud of the innovative and exciting work that is going on.

In the 1930s, the New Zealand Minister of Education was a Labour MP called Peter Fraser.

He, more than any politician before him acted seriously on the view that every child, no matter what his or her background, should have access to a good education that would let them achieve their potential.

In modern day New Zealand, that philosophy has become even more crucial and the diversity within our school systems means the solutions have to be different.

People of my age and older could almost get away without much of a formal education. There were plenty of jobs around that did not require a person being able to read and write, or have good numeracy skills.

Yet these days, to allow a young person to leave school illiterate is as good as condemning them to the dole queue for life.

There are so many jobs that people of my generation could have done when they left school without a high level of education, that now require a much greater skill level – especially with computers.

And in education, we must start off by recognising that the playing field is not even. A child's family background impacts greatly on how well they do in education. As a result our Government has done a lot of work to reduce disparities in education.

In many ways, the work we are doing domestically complements the themes of this meeting.

In New Zealand, we have a wealth on experience and expertise in the education area that belies our relatively small population. Sharing our resources, including our human resources, is already a priority within our development assistance programmes for the Pacific region.

I welcome the opportunity to work with you to look at further ways to reduce inequalities in educational opportunity throughout the Pacific.

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