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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 85

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 85


* A New Deal The Education Forum has launched an alternative model for schooling in New Zealand. * The Ministry of Education Do we now have statist rather than state education? * Our new court - where to now? Appeals to the Privy Council are gone but this is just the start. * Prostitution control Act now to stop brothels setting up in your neighbourhood.

The New Deal

A plan to reform New Zealand's education system released this week by the Education Forum raises important questions about the effectiveness of our one-size-fits-all school model. It advocates that parents have greater freedom to choose an education that best suit their children's needs and will provoke debate on the present system. The Education Forum is an association of educators drawn from primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, together with leaders of industry and commerce, who have a common concern for the direction of education in New Zealand. A New Deal - Making Education Work for all New Zealanders, draws on extensive research from overseas, and presents alternative models for compulsory schooling which have been successful elsewhere. It argues that parents should be able to make real choices for their children; seeks the abolition of school zoning (what it calls "the Berlin Wall of education"), and recommends a funding mechanism which follows pupils irrespective of which school they attend.

The proposal also wants more freedom for individual schools, suggesting they be funded in cash and left to determine how best to spend it. Teachers should be given a more generous and flexible pay scheme, allowing good practitioners to be rewarded. Transparency of information with easy access for parents is proposed along with broader routes to teacher registration. A New Deal provides a platform for serious consideration of education reform.

For more details, visit the Forum's website: www.educationforum.org.nz

The Ministry of Education

In a complete reversal of the 1989 shift towards greater local autonomy, Secretary for Education, Howard Fancy, said in the Statement of Intent (2003-2008): "No longer are we the hands-off Ministry that followed Tomorrow's Schools. We are working to become more skilled about how, when and where we intervene."

In 2002, the Ministry employed 3,000 permanent, temporary and field staff. That figure has swelled considerably this year with the absorption of Early Childhood Development. In addition, the Tertiary Education Commission (under the Ministry's auspices) has taken on 360 new employees to preside over the charters and profiles of our eight universities and other tertiary providers. It is deeply ironic that while the Ministry is in growth mode, schools all over the country are being forced to close. The Ministry is showing total disregard to parental and community wishes as it dictates the direction of education.

The axe is to swing on 300 schools nationwide, but the government's focus is not on what schools are actually doing. There might be some logic if the schools concerned were poorly run or had shrinking rolls. But many are performing well, to the satisfaction of their communities and even the Education Review Office. The control we're now seeing, as commentator Chris Trotter has described, is statist rather than state education - an agenda is being advanced irrespective of reality.

Our new court - where to now?

Now that appeals to the Privy Council in London have been severed, the focus is on the future. In her speech on Tuesday Attorney General, Margaret Wilson said, "we must throw off, once and for all, the fetters of our colonial past." This suggests more is to come and that ditching the Privy Council was only part of a much bigger strategy for reform.

The move away from Westminster may be seen as a sort of legal 'coming of age', but casting off the past is one thing; what replaces it is another. Ms Wilson is confident new equals better, but time will tell. If we move down the republic path, who will write our constitution and, more importantly, on what foundation will that constitution rest? The position taken by this government is essentially a revisionist one premised on the idea that received traditions are implicitly 'colonial', 'oppressive' and 'anti-progress'. Cast in that mould, so-called 'reform' is not only desirable, but imperative. For the Labour-Progressive coalition, creating a society in its own image is more important than conserving the good. Nothing has any permanent value and the latest is always superior. This situation has rightly been called 'chronological snobbery'.

Prostitution bylaws

Local bodies have begun to consult the public concerning prostitution bylaws. It is their responsibility under the Prostitution Reform Act to regulate where brothels are located and signs advertising prostitution can be placed. The Auckland and Christchurch City Councils are among the first to canvass their constituents. Councils can also pass bylaws to promote public health and prevent activities like pimping and soliciting causing a public nuisance or serious offence.

Resistance has already been shown by the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective and the bill's original promoter, Christchurch Central MP, Tim Barnett, to some of the proposed constraints on the location of brothels. Many councils are waiting to see what happens or are relying on current district plans to control the effects. To prevent brothels being able to set up in your neighbourhood you need to make a submission.

We encourage readers to find out what your local council is proposing and to have a say. For more information visit: www.maxim.org.nz/prb/bylaw.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Geoffrey Rippon (1924-)

Governments don't retreat, they simply advance in another direction.

(The Observer, 1981)

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

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