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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 212

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 212
6 July 2006


NCEA Discourages Many Students from Excelling
Knocking Out Corruption
the Dilemma of Welfare

In the News:
Maxim Institute's 2006 Essay Competition Launched
Underage Prostitution Under the Spotlight
New Zealand and NATO


A report released this week shows that many students think the NCEA lowers their motivation to excel and finds that students would like more information on their learning and performance than the NCEA currently provides. Similar criticisms have been levelled at the NCEA since its introduction and deserve thorough consideration.

The report by Victoria University, The Impact of NCEA on Student Motivation, was commissioned by the Ministry of Education. It sought feedback from nearly 6000 New Zealand pupils, as well as teachers and parents.

Commenting on the NCEA's design, the authors said that, "Many students agreed that it was hard to be motivated to do more than the minimum 80 credits and many indicated there is little motivation to aim for Merit or Excellence when these credits carry no extra value." Students feel that the current grade bands are, "...too broad and do not provide enough information on their learning and performance. Many students added suggestions for letter grades...and a system of percentage points."

The report highlights again the need for schools to have the flexibility to offer alternative qualifications so that more children can be motivated to do well. Children are different and the qualification system that will motivate one child will make another one yawn. Sadly, schools currently face many barriers to offering alternative qualifications such as the popular Cambridge A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate, including both financial and administrative pressures.

Not surprisingly, parents support schools being able to offer alternative examinations. Research by Colmar Brunton featured in Maxim Institute's report, The Parent Factor: Freedom for schools, showed that 79 percent of the 1001 New Zealand parents surveyed believed that schools should be free to offer alternative examinations to the NCEA. It is time that the Minister of Education re-examined the unnecessary restrictions schools face in offering qualifications other than the NCEA, so that schools have the flexibility to respond to the needs of families in their community.

To read The Impact of NCEA on Student Motivation, please visit:


To read The Parent Factor: Freedom for schools, please visit:



Corruption in government is a crippling problem, whether for the United Nations, the European Union, or in tackling poverty. It is endemic in many countries worldwide; bribes, kick-backs, insider trading and other forms of corruption are often common problems. Fortunately, New Zealand gets a relatively clean bill of health.

A new report from the Institute of Economic Affairs examines what corruption is, what causes it, and what can prevent it. The report, Corruption - The World's Big C, concludes that there are several factors which prevent corruption. These include free markets, transparent government and a free press. It intuitively makes sense; if the government is not in charge of trade licences or regulating the market to excess, there should be fewer opportunities for corruption. A transparent and accountable government is less susceptible to corruption and a free press is able to expose corruption in both government and the private sector.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is that personal honesty and virtue trump all the other factors. For instance, in Scandinavia, which has a relatively large government, the personal honesty of its citizens means that corruption is very low.

Honesty was measured both by the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and by the more informal method of dropping wallets, with money and identification inside them, in each country, and then seeing how many were sent back. "Wallet ratings" ranged from 100 percent in Denmark to 21 percent in Mexico. New Zealand had a "wallet rating" of 83 percent and we are second in the CPI ranking. This makes us one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

The report highlights well both the crucial importance of battling corruption, and examines ways of doing so. It also reveals that, in the end, there is no substitute for an individual's character and the personal motivation to do the right thing.

To read the report, Corruption - The World's Big C, please visit:



Following the tragic deaths of the Kahui twins, welfare reform is again on the table. This week John Tamihere and The National Maori Urban Authority suggested that benefits, like those paid to the Kahui family, should be paid through a third party, who would then pay the recipients' rents and other expenses directly.

The plan highlights the complex web of issues surrounding state subsidised welfare. The idea has merit, but requires a delicate balance. On the one hand, beneficiaries should be helped to stand on their own feet, but at the same time, taxpayer money must be well-spent.

John Tamihere argues that, "Benefits are for those who experience tough times. They are not to reward a lifestyle. It is time now for budgeting to occur where the benefit is applied directly to rent to provide shelter for the family, electricity for warmth and cooking for food to feed families." Clearly, it is important to help families to spend their money effectively. This is especially important for families receiving benefits not only because they are paid for by the tax-payer, but also because many families on welfare struggle to cover even the basics.

The real question is whether such a scheme would actually entrench people into further dependency rather than helping them establish good habits for managing their own money.

Finding a balance between encouraging beneficiaries to spend their money wisely while at the same time not damaging their ability to take responsibility for themselves is something that New Zealand is yet to achieve.



Maxim Institute is pleased to announce that its 2006 essay competition is now open to tertiary students nationwide, with a first prize of $2,000 and prize money totalling $3,500 on offer for the winning entries.

This year's question considers Helen Keller's quote, "Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained," and asks: What would a socially just society look like?

For details of the competition, including the word limit, closing date and the recommended reading list, please visit:



Christchurch Police have recently released figures showing that nobody has been arrested for soliciting services from under-age prostitutes during a recent "crackdown". Police promised action after underage prostitution was identified as a growing problem in January.

At the time, the Prostitutes Collective rightly pointed out that prosecuting the men who use under-age prostitutes would be a major deterrent, but no-one has actually been arrested.

Christchurch is not the only city that is struggling with the impact of the Prostitution Reform Act, passed in 2003. Parliament has recently responded to the local concerns of Manukau City at the increase in street soliciting by passing the Manukau City Council (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill through its first reading.


New Zealand's relationship with our traditional allies has been strained in recent years, but a new overture from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) could signal a thaw.

The United States is asking NATO to enter "global partnerships" with countries outside Europe. Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan are all being considered as possible partners to cooperate with some NATO missions, including joint exercises, training, peacekeeping and stabilisation missions. Official exchanges are also likely, according to Defence Minister, Phil Goff.

While the cooperation mooted will stop short of full membership of NATO, and any missions involving New Zealand would have to be approved by the UN, the possible partnership is great news for New Zealand. If completed, it is likely to bring us into closer contact with our allies and friends at a crucial time and help ensure our security.

NATO involves the United States, the United Kingdom and other European countries. The organisation is due to debate global partnerships in November.

To read more about NATO, please visit:



"Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence." Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)


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