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The State of Education

If education is an important factor in your decision making this election, then I urge you think carefully where you place your vote.

All of the major political parties have the same basic philosophy when it comes to education. They just vary by the extent to how much control they wish to hold over our children.

They all promise to deliver a high quality public education system. This promise has been made since public education started over a hundred years ago and not once throughout this period has this promise been fulfilled. The public of New Zealand have been duped into believing that only Government can deliver a quality education system. The larger the promises they make, the more control they hold over our children and the less choice we have as consumers.

As to the claims made by these parties promising to provide a 'quality' education system. Quality is a relative term and under the present state monopoly system we have nothing by which to compare the quality of our system, other than those of other countries. Even then, we can only compare ourselves with developed countries whose education systems are all, to differing extents, controlled by the state. This leaves us in a situation where we can only compare ourselves as possibly the best of a bad bunch. Yet we can't even make this claim.

Successive governments in recent years have taken more control on the day to day running of schools but by doing so they have placed a much hire compliance burden on teachers, headmasters and boards of trustees. This has hindered each schools effort to perform its proper purpose of educating.

The proportion of tax that is spent on education is huge. A large portion of this is spent on the bureaucracy that enforces this system. A slow, cumbersome and grossly inefficient bureaucracy that swallows millions of taxpayers' dollars before it even reaches the classroom. Still as each election comes around we hear promises of more spending on education. While each successive government fulfils this promise we see no discernable improvement in our schools and universities. Sure, the money gets spent, but only on more inefficiency and a larger bureaucracy. Meanwhile those on the coalface, the teachers, have to scrap it out to gain an overdue pay rise.

We are in the middle of a secondary school teachers' strike that looks set to go on for a while. We are also losing many highly qualified teachers who would rather seek work over seas or leave teaching altogether to start a career elsewhere. Under the present system all secondary teachers are earning basically the same salary. This method of payment doesn't recognise excellence, nor does it recognise incompetence. It offers no incentive for a teacher to improve or to be innovative. It only serves to encourage complacency and mediocrity. While this has resulted in low morale among teachers, the real losers in this will always be the pupils.

The state has taken full control of the curriculum and also sets the qualification standard. In other words they have forced upon our children the subjects it thinks our children should learn, how they should learn it and to whatever standard the state thinks is appropriate. Because of this schools are unable to adjust their own curriculum to suit the demands of the pupils or parents. All schools teach basically the same subjects, by the same method and at a similar pace. This coupled with school zoning leaves parents with little say on how their children should be educated.

Whether we like it or not The State has control over the minds of our children for 1200 hours a year. They enforce a method of teaching that was developed during the reign of Queen Victoria. The world has changed immeasurably since then but the basic structure of education hasn't. Children are still told what to think not how to think and discover for themselves. The bell still rings dead on time at which the pupils are to close their books whether they have completed or even understood the task at hand or not. These two fundamental issues, among many, cause irreparable problems. By taking away the opportunities for discovery, pupils lack a deep understanding of the subjects they are learning. There is no sense of achievement and therefore any enthusiasm that may be achieved is lost, probably forever. For a child who may be deeply engrossed or may just be coming to grips with a subject will only be frustrated when the bell goes and they have to stop what they are doing.

Thankfully we do have private schools but these are still dictated to by the State. They still have to fulfil the curriculum set by Government and can only operate by qualifications also set by Government. These schools are only on offer to those who can afford it. In other words if you can afford to pay tax towards the education of other peoples children as well as pay the full fee for private education then you are one of the lucky few. The rest of us are forced to pay for state education through tax, which eliminates our ability to afford private education.

Private education would be affordable to all if only the state would allow us to keep what is rightfully ours i.e. our money.

Before you place your vote this election you must ask yourself. Who is responsible for your child? Does anyone have a right to tell you how to raise your child? Do you have a right to force someone else to pay for your child's education? Does anyone have a right to your money for the education of his or her child?

I urge you to read each party's education policy. Take note of those who promise to do more for your child, for they are the parties you should be more suspicious of as this generally means more control for the bureaucrats and less choice for you. When you hear them talk about free education, remember that it is not free. In fact, you as a taxpayer are paying far more for an antiquated, substandard education system than you would ever pay for a market driven system, unhindered by the state.

It is time to say no more to factory style education that encourages dependency and discourages initiative.

Schools must be held directly accountable to those who matter, the pupils and parents who use them. We must have a wide and varied choice of education at our disposal, which we as parents may choose to use at our discretion. The only way to achieve this is through the private sector.

Teachers will be paid on individual merit, encouraging excellence and weeding out incompetence.

Schools will have to compete to attract pupils. This means they will have to strive for excellence to compete against their peers.

This will also encourage some schools to specialize in certain fields, for example, languages, technical subjects, science etc. In other words they will cater for the specific educational needs and interests of their pupils.

You as a parent will be able to voice your grievance and to expect results.

Only in the private sector can parents expect effective and efficient use of the fees they are paying.

So if you want your child to grow up as the master of his or her own life, then vote accordingly.

If on the other hand you want your child to grow up a pliable slave to the state, then vote accordingly.


For more information contact: Peter Osborne Libertarianz Associate Spokesman to Deregulate Education Ph 027 4326005 Email ospar@xtra.co.nz

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