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Maxim Real Issues No. 159, 2 JUNE 2005

Maxim Real Issues No. 159, 2 JUNE 2005

Parents want schools to have more freedom

France & the Netherlands say 'no' to the EU constitution

Parents speak out

Tertiary students' essay competition

Upcoming events

Parents want schools to have more freedom

This week Maxim Institute released Freedom for schools, the first report in The Parent Factor series, which reveals what parents think of schooling in New Zealand, and makes several policy recommendations. The Colmar Brunton survey of 1001 parents taken in August 2004 found that parents want schools to have more freedom. In particular:

76% of parents think that schools should be permitted to specialise in particular subject areas or sport, if they choose to do so.

Policy recommendation: Where schools wish to specialise in a particular subject, sport, or the arts, they should be encouraged by the Ministry of Education to do so, and be given freedom over their finances and curriculum.

Only a minority of parents (31%) said they have confidence in the value of the NCEA. Few parents (27%) thought that the NCEA provides a clear measure of a pupil's abilities. 79% of parents believe schools should be free to offer alternative examinations to the NCEA.

Policy recommendation: Schools should be free to offer alternatives to the NCEA and should not be obliged to offer a qualification from the National Qualifications Framework. The NCEA should remain an option for schools, but the narrow definition of a "nationally recognised" qualification must be widened to allow the inclusion of alternative qualifications.

84% of parents believe that schools should be allowed to teach their community's values.

Policy recommendation: The values underlying schooling should be determined locally to reflect the positive values of the community. The Ministry of Education should not specify particular values to be taught in New Zealand schools. Rather, school communities should be able to integrate values suitable to their particular context. Integrated schools need restrictive roll caps lifted, and new special character schools should be allowed to open where there is community demand.

To read more about The Parent Factor: Freedom for schools, and download a copy of the full report visit:

France & the Netherlands say 'no' to the EU constitution

France & the Netherlands, both founding members of the European Union, this week voted not to ratify the European Union constitution. After weeks of contested public debate, the 'Non' campaign in France won a convincing 54.87 percent of the vote, In the Netherlands it was 63 percent. Turnout in both was well over 60 percent. The no vote yesterday in the Dutch referendum will almost certainly contribute to stalling the Constitution's passage into law.

The rejection of the constitution, which has the legal status of a treaty, puts the EU into crisis as it cannot be ratified without the agreement of each member-state. The French no vote is a personal blow for President Jacques Chirac, as he lent his personal support to the merits of a European Constitution.

Many French voters fear liberalisation of trade and a mass influx of immigrant workers from the East. The referendum was also an opportunity for the French public to register disapproval of the Chirac government. Europeans are increasingly sceptical of an integration process they do not understand, and have no natural attachment to.

The EU is experiencing the consequence of its attempt to bring together many diverse states under one system of governance. As Professor Roger Scruton notes, while the nation-state is not the only answer to modern government, it is the only answer that has proved itself, because people share a sense of community defined by place, enshrined in sovereignty and law. We may wish to construct other forms of political order, but it is difficult to predict or reverse the consequences. While there is still a case for the states of Europe to cooperate when their interests coincide, the idea that it is possible to institute community from above ignores the greater heritage that is carried in the nation-state.

Parents speak out

The Government's approach to education is failing to impress - perhaps because it is out of touch with what parents want.

The Herald-Digipoll's findings released this week found that education ranked closely behind health and tax as key election issues for New Zealand voters. This is significant, as 43.8% of respondents considered the education system had got worse under the current government, despite increased spending of $3 billion.

In election year, what people think really does matter. Parents spoke this week with the release of Maxim's first report in The Parent Factor series. Parents favour increased freedom for schools - a stark contrast with the current system.

Parents want more opportunities to make decisions that affect their child's schooling. To make meaningful decisions they need to have options, not a plethora of schools exactly the same. Children are different, even ones from the same family - yet this is not recognised in the state education system.

Parents want schools to have the freedom to develop as specialists in subjects areas they excel in, to represent the values that parents believe are important and to use the curriculum and examination system that they think is best. Parents trust schools to make the best decisions for their pupils – this makes sense as boards, principals and teachers are closer to pupils than bureaucrats in Wellington. They alone know their individual community's needs.

Let's hope the incoming government trusts schools as much as parents do. Parents vote, and like everyone, they will vote for what they want.

Tertiary students' essay competition

Maxim Institute is pleased to launch the Centre for Tomorrow's Leaders tertiary students' essay competition for 2005.

We know that man is by his constitution a religious animal
- Edmund Burke.

The separation of church and state is foundational to the Western understanding of democracy. What role, if any, does religion (both personal and institutional) have in the political sphere of a society?

A total of $3,500 is available, as well as summer internships for qualifying finalists. The competition closes on Friday 23 September 2005. Further details are available online at:

Upcoming events

The Levin Change Agent workshop will be held on 25 June. For details visit:

To register your interest in holding an event in your local region leading up to the 2005 election please email:

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - George Eliot (1819-1880)

Those who trust us educate us.

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