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Maxim Real Issues: No. 152, 14 APRIL 2005

No. 152, 14 APRIL 2005

National`s Education Policy

Great teachers deserve better

`Can do better` - a new human rights report

National`s Education Policy

On Wednesday, National Party leader Dr Don Brash outlined National's education policy, suggesting multiple reforms that would have far-reaching consequences for New Zealand if National took office.

The cornerstone of the policies is that parents should be trusted with the education of their children. Government policy in recent years has been to shift authority from the local community to Wellington, indicating a lack of trust in parents, teachers and principals. An example has been the closure of many viable schools throughout the country following the Ministry of Education's regional 'Network Reviews'.

National has promised to remove centrally imposed zoning, which restricts the choices of parents. It will also help popular schools that are at full capacity to expand, so more parents will be able to send their children to the school they prefer.

Dr Brash said a National-led government would give schools more operational freedom. It would restructure the way schools are funded to give them greater flexibility to meet the community's needs.

The speech also outlined National's intention to fix the problem of declining standards. Parents of children not meeting basic literacy or numeracy standards will be given vouchers for additional tuition.

National's policy has attracted strong opposition from the government and teacher unions, but it is essential that there is constructive debate about this important issue. Children are the responsibility of parents before they are the responsibility of the state, and parents' voices should be listened to.

To read Dr Brash's speech visit:

Great teachers deserve better

Liberating teachers from oppressive collective contracts and rewarding outstanding ones with the pay and respect they deserve is just one of National's new education policies.

The Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) and the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) have criticised the policies which promote the choices of parents and the interests of teachers over centralised control. Whose interests are they serving?

Teachers should serve parents before they serve the Minister of Education. Treating teachers as professionals and allowing schools to reward teachers for outstanding performance is crucial to improving teaching as a career option. Good teachers are essential to a good education system, but collective contracts discourage exceptional people from choosing teaching as a career.

Reasonable employers don't expect hard work and excellence from their employees without rewarding them for their effort. The government on the other hand is content to allocate pay through a restrictive centralised formula. Giving local schools the freedom to allocate their own funds means that good teachers can be rewarded and that schools' staffing is tailored to their unique needs.

To read Maxim's media release on this issue visit:

`Can do better` - a new human rights report

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) Action Plan, released in late March, claims New Zealand is a 'strong performer' in respecting and upholding human rights, but there are several areas which the Commission feels we need to improve.

The New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights - Priorities for Action 2005-2010 gives us a 'can do better' assessment. It concludes: 'The fundamental right to be who we are and to be respected for who we are - whether we are a disabled person, Pakeha, Maori, Pacific, Asian, gay, lesbian, a transgender or intersex person, male, female, young or old - is still not a reality for all New Zealanders.'

The report rests on the assumption that the state and its agencies (especially the Commission) can create trust and respect in human relationships. The HRC is being increasingly 'empowered' by the state (it received $5,297,951 in direct grants from the government in 2002 and $7,370,487 in 2003), but what it is trying to achieve will not result from increased bureaucracy. A new action plan - or even several of them - cannot make us better, or more respecting of others. That is a moral task related to character, not legal reform and an increase in HRC activity.

The Commission seeks to create a new state-driven ethic for relationships. Unlike earlier human rights formulations, such as those contained in the 1948 Universal Declaration, where individuals were protected from state intrusion, we're seeing a much more aggressive and proactive role for human rights issuing from the HRC. Increasingly rights are being defined with respect to groups, rather than individuals, and they are focusing on advocacy for identified minorities, rather than protection for all, meaning the state itself is actually becoming the arbiter of right and wrong.

The Action Plan appears to be facilitating a fairer and more just society, but in reality it is eroding many of the freedoms inherited from our constitution and heritage. When the state determines ethics, democracy and citizen freedom are undermined.

To read the Human Rights Commission report click here:


All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.

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