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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 200 13 April 06

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 200 13 April 2006


Real Issues Clocks Up A Double Century

Low Income Families Less Likely To Be At Their Preferred School

Moderate By Comparison

In The News: The End Of Cigarettes?

In The News: Government Moves To Control Freshwater

Real Issues Clocks Up A Double Century

We are delighted to bring you the 200th edition of Real Issues this week. Maxim Institute thanks those subscribers who have read Real Issues from the beginning and also those who have joined us along the way. It is our pleasure to bring you the real issues behind the headlines and we appreciate your continued support.


A new education report has revealed that 33 percent of pupils from low-income families were not attending the secondary school of their first choice, compared with 22 percent of all pupils in the study. The report also found that "Students in decile 1–2 schools were least likely to say they were in the school of their first choice".

These findings were published in Competent Learners @ 14, the latest in the Competent Children series, produced by the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER). For thirteen years, the study has looked at the proficiency of 500 pupils in the Wellington region in basic learning skills, as well as the underlying factors in the home and school that might account for differences in achievement and children's experience of schooling.

While overall the research reports that 71 percent of pupils said their secondary school had been their first choice, and a similar proportion would choose the same school again, every child deserves the opportunity to attend the school of their choice, including those on low incomes.

As this report admits, at the moment, half of the low income pupils who did not get to go to the school of their first choice feel stuck; families' choices are limited by whether they can afford a house in the school zone or school activity fees. As suggested by the authors, it means children from low-income families are more likely to end up in the school nearest to where they live. However, this might not be the school that is most suitable for their needs.

Education policy should create opportunities for the most disadvantaged families to choose their school, since the current system of school enrolment does not treat these families fairly and they are missing out.

An electronic copy of Competent Learners @ 14 may be obtained at: http://www.nzcer.org.nz/default.php?cPath=76&products_id=134


"Protests in France", has surely been one of the most frequent headlines so far this year and this week brought more of the same. This time there was a "victory march" as President Chirac appeared to u-turn on moves to create more flexible employment conditions.

France is facing some major problems. A youth unemployment rate of 22 percent is clearly problematic, and the claims of employers that this is in part due to restrictive employment law, do at least ring true.

In response to this problem, changes were proposed to introduce a two year trial period for firms, during which time employees under the age of 26 could be sacked. The proposed law change brought a familiar response, with many students and workers rallying against the changes and taking to the streets in protest. The protests seem to have been successful, at least for the time being, as President Chirac has recanted on the changes. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of these latest measures, the problem remains. A youth unemployment rate of 22 percent is not good for France and so far the protesters have not come up with any better solutions.

Last month in New Zealand, Sue Bradford described Wayne Mapp's Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill as "an attack on the young, the less skilled and educated, and the unemployed" and "mean-spirited, anti-worker legislation [with] no place in a modern and innovative economy". Yet, comparing his proposals with the suggested French policy, these comments seem in every way an overstatement.

While France will have to struggle on towards a politically tenable solution to their unemployment woes, the passing of the Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill at its first reading last month, shows New Zealand is definitely in step with other countries in debating ways to reduce the barriers to finding first jobs.


In the same week that the Ministry of Health and The Quit Group released figures showing 47 percent of Maori are daily smokers, compared to 29 percent of Pacific people and 20 percent of other New Zealanders, Maori Party MP Hone Harawira renewed his commitment to seeing New Zealand smokefree by December 10, 2010. Speaking at a national Aukati Kaipapa conference for Maori smoking cessation providers on Tuesday, he outlined again his intention to draft a private member's bill to make the production, manufacture and sale of tobacco products illegal.

To read the Maori Smoking and Tobacco Use Fact Sheet, visit: http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/0/AC53BAEF69C223EFCC25714C00019ADA/$File/sm oking-factsheet.pdf (To view .PDF's download Adobe Reader: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html)


On Monday the government announced a new strategy to protect and improve freshwater resources in New Zealand, which will involve, for the first time, a strategic and nationally consistent approach to managing freshwater.

The Sustainable Water Programme of Action follows public consultation in 2005 and will see the government take a more proactive role in managing freshwater, with regional councils remaining the primary managers under the Resource Management Act 1991. A leadership group will be established within three months and a National Policy Statement and National Environmental Standards will also be drafted.

To read about the Sustainable Water Programme of Action, visit: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/water/prog-action/index.html


How do we measure the value of education?

Dutch MP Sharon Dijksma, in an interview with 'Forum' magazine, recently said: "A highly-educated woman who chooses to stay at home and not to work – that is destruction of capital." "If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at the cost of society, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished."


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