25 Mar 2014
The Herald reports that Auckland's growing population is putting pressure on its schools. Low decile schools are losing students to high decile schools. Parents shift their children because there is not enough of the education that parents want.
A growing population also increases demand for shoes, for flat-whites, for hairdressers and for just about everything else. Yet there is no shortage of these things. Why not? What is the difference between the supply of education and the supply of hairdressing?
The answer is that education supply is controlled by the government. In a normal market, increased demand first pushes up prices. This increases profits and encourages additional supply of whatever consumers want but has been in shortage.
In New Zealand’s state controlled education system, however, supply does not respond to demand in this way. Instead, students and parents clamber over one another to get into schools that they see as desirable.
Astonishingly, the officialdom simply dismisses parental concerns. They huff that the schools that parents are pulling their children from are perfectly good. The problem, they believe, is that parents are overly preoccupied with decile rankings.
The system is simply not responsive enough to the desires of parents and children. The preferences of bureaucrats and teachers unions are given too much weight. It is a cumbersome and unreliable process, as the current shortage of education in Auckland testifies.
Partnership Schools show the alternative. Take the example of South Auckland Middle School. The proprietors of Mt Hobson Middle School innovated and created education that parents wanted. Parents paid to send their children to this independent school. Then ACT’s Partnership School policy allowed its supply to expand.
South Auckland Middle School is taking an education innovation from Remuera to Manurewa. It is the flexibility of the Partnership School model that’s allowed this to happen.
The government should do what it can to draw the private sector into the business of supplying education in Auckland through initiatives like Partnership Schools. The creativity of social entrepreneurs is what we need to address New Zealand’s social challenges.