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Forced Re-training Muddle Prompts More Meddling

Trevor Mallard's announcement that his government is taking a "more active role in ensuring more consistent access to quality early childhood education" has been greeted with incredulity by Libertarianz spokesman to deregulate early childhood education, Peter Cresswell. He says the only action the government need take in order to promote access to early childhood education (ECE) is to reverse their requirement that ECE teachers forcibly re-train, and to allow private centres to operate unencumbered by his meddling.

"Early childhood education is one part of the education system that is already working well, with oodles of choices available for parents," says Cresswell. "Or at least it WAS working well until Mallard's earlier meddling - his earlier imposition of forced re-training for teachers has done more than anything else to reduce the access to ECE he now claims to be ensuring!"

>From January of this year many managers of early childhood centres were forced back to school to forcibly re-train, leaving their schools struggling to replace them, and leaving many managers short of an income while they study. (Mallard has required that all managers become holders of an Early Childhood Diploma - existing managers have until 2005 to gain the diploma.) Cresswell notes that many managers of successful schools already had alternative and even superior qualifications to the state diploma and, he says "Mallard's forced re-training means many are now taking valuable time away from their classrooms in order to gain his inferior qualification."

Many excellent teachers with years of experience however cannot face another three years at teachers' college "being brainwashed with the latest politically correct nonsense," says Cresswell, and are instead simply leaving the profession. "Fewer teachers are undergoing forced re-training than the minister and the teachers colleges expected, and fewer teachers remain to service the early childhood centres that remain."

Acknowledging at the weekend "that increasing qualification requirements places pressure on the supply of qualified ECE teachers" Mallard says that the teacher shortage and other 'access problems' means he now must "take a more active role." Cresswell notes the irony of Mallard's reaction to the teacher shortage he himself has created is to take an even more active role. "It would be funny if it weren't so sad," says Cresswell. "And so duplicitous."

The reaction of NZEI representative Amanda Coulston offers a clue as to the aim of Mallard's activism, says Cresswell. Union representative Coulston responded to Mallard's announcement of a more active role for government by gushing: "Early childhood education is too important to leave to market forces and the union is pleased the minister has acknowledged that by announcing this project."

Cresswell responds that ECE "is too important to let fall totally into government paws," and says that this rapid encroachment of big government into ECE and the accompanying disasters is depressing, but entirely predictable. Writing about forced re-training in The Free Radical in July 2000 he said: "I predict that in two years time the number of early childhood centres will have markedly diminished, & those remaining will be struggling to find teachers with significant experience. There will be both a teacher shortage & a school shortage. In a pattern only too familiar to those who watch the growth of the state it will be at precisely this time that we will hear there has been a ‘market failure’ & that the govt must step in & pick up the pieces." His prediction is now coming to pass, he says.

He concludes: "Libertarianz would remove government entirely from early childhood education, and leave parents and educators free to take an active role in their own futures, unencumbered by government meddling sucah as have been actioned by this minister."

The full text of Cresswell's July 2002 editorial on forced re-training in ECE can be found at www.freeradical.co.nz/content/42/42editorial.shtm


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