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Free Quality Education Vital For Children & Young

Free, high quality education vital for our children and young people

Every child and young person is entitled to a free, high quality education and it¡¦s time New Zealand made this most basic human right a reality. This is one of the key proposals of the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights, released publicly on 31 March.

The Action Plan includes a range of recommendations aimed at improving the status of human rights in New Zealand. The Plan is the culmination of over two years work, by the Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Children¡¦s Commissioner, in which more than 5,000 people provided input into the plan¡¦s development.

The importance of education is a strong focus throughout the Action Plan, says Children¡¦s Commissioner Cindy Kiro. ¡§Children, young people and their families consistently identified difficulties with access to an affordable, adaptable and quality education during consultation on the development of the Action Plan.¡¨

Of particular concern to Dr Kiro were current disparities in education outcomes. ¡§New Zealand has ratified UN Conventions requiring free compulsory education but we still have some way to go. Participation and achievement rates for Maori, Pacific peoples and those from poorer communities were disproportionately low when compared to other New Zealanders,¡¨ Dr Kiro says.

The Action Plan also recognises the link between a parent¡¦s lack of literacy and their children¡¦s ability to progress through the education system.

¡§Accessible, appropriate and quality literacy services need to be made available to adults,¡¨ says Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan. ¡§A lack of literacy prevents a person from being able to fully take part in society.¡¨

¡§Literate adults are more able to support their children¡¦s education as well as improve their own ability to enter tertiary education and enhance their job prospects,¡¨ Ms Noonan says.

The report includes the following priority actions to improve access to education for children and young people:

„X Challenging the persistent barriers to free primary and secondary education and strengthening and enforcing existing legislation and policies.

„X Recognising that some children experience greater difficulty in accessing education, including those who are disabled, those who speak English as a second language, those who have severe learning difficulties and those who live in poverty.

„X The Amendment of the National Education Guidelines to make human rights obligations explicit, including the right to education.

„X The review of the legal power of schools to suspend, exclude, expel and refuse to enrol students.

„X Ensuring that accessible quality early childhood education is available to all.

„X The development of early childhood centres and schools as human rights communities, so that children and young people are aware of their rights and responsibilities and that their environment for achievement is enhanced.

The Action Plan also calls for a nationally coordinated effective approach to human rights education. ¡§Ensuring people know about their rights and responsibilities plays a pivotal role in protecting human rights,¡¨ Ms Noonan says.

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