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Crunch time for Pacific education

Labour
2000 web siteA change in government was needed in order for there to be any improvement in Pacific Island educational achievement, Labour education spokesperson Trevor Mallard told a Pacific Island education forum meeting in Wellington today.

Trevor Mallard said Labour was determined to close the gaps in educational achievement for children in different communities in New Zealand.

"The reality is that many of those who are not doing well educationally are from Pacific Island backgrounds. Under National and Act - the situation is going to get worse. They will continue to promote competition among schools so that there are winner schools and loser schools.

"They want educational vouchers which will mean that more wealthy people can top their state subsidy up so that their children get better resources and smaller class sizes and children who come from poorer homes will be left in large classes with less funding for things like books and computers.

"Tertiary fees will go up even further and student debts will get higher.

"Labour has a comprehensive education plan which is focused around improving quality, closing the gaps, and lowering the costs of tertiary education.

"In early childhood education we will be introducing equity funding to help centres servicing low socio economic communities and for programmes to encourage greater Maori and Pacific Island families participation in early childhood education. We will also increase capital works funding for the early childhood sector including help for communities to establish licensed centres where there is a significant need. This is likely to have a particular benefit for Pacific Island early childhood education provision.

"In the schools sector, closing the gaps is a key priority. For a start, those schools will be better funded. The money that the Government tried to use to bribe schools into bulk funding will be used to help all schools - especially schools in low income areas.

"Labour is also prepared to be innovative to come up with solutions to help schools that find it hard to recruit qualified and experienced staff - including extra financial incentives. There will be scholarships to encourage more Pacific Island people to become teachers.

"Our policy on information technology includes the need to help poorer schools purchase computer hardware and software. This is important for us as very few Pacific Island families can afford computers, yet it is a really important skill that our children need.

"There is also scope within Labour's policy for special initiatives, like homework centres, to improve the standard of learning. I am confident that Pacific Island communities will support these initiatives.

"In tertiary education and training - lowering the cost is vital starting off with a fairer student loan scheme whereby full-time and other low income students will pay no interest on their loans while they are still studying.

"We will also attack the issue of fees starting off with negotiating agreements with tertiary institutions which ensure that increases in government funding are reflected in lower fees being charged to students. There will also be mentoring programmes for Pacific Island students and scholarships to encourage students from low income households to take further education opportunities.

"In the training area, there will be a modern apprenticeships scheme and better learning and careers advice for secondary school students.

"This election is a crunch time for Pacific Island education. There is no status quo. Voters get a choice of voting for a far right government or voting Labour with their party vote for a change in direction to improve the opportunities for all New Zealanders," Trevor Mallard said.

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