A slowly-moving disaster: 1/5 kids unequipped for life

Wed, 04 Dec, 2019

“The latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report must force politicians to take power from a sclerotic education bureaucracy and put it in the hands of educators, parents and students”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The finding that one in five 15-year-olds is not at the level needed to function effectively in later life is a disaster and shows Labour’s decision to end Partnership Schools was a terrible mistake.

“Our government-run education system is setting thousands of children up for failure. Taxpayers spend $15 billion on education each year, but the results are highly unequal and slowly declining. Too many children leave school without the basic skills they need to navigate a rapidly-changing world. Skills increasingly matter, and they'll be even more important as more jobs are automated. We are sending students into a world where skills matter more at a time they've got less of them.

“Children have a wide range of needs, but our one-size-fits-all education system has failed to adapt and provide every student with a good education. The response from other parties to the problems in our state-run education system is to throw more money at it. ACT says we need structural change, putting power in the hands of educators, parents and children.

“This is why ACT pioneered Partnership Schools. Until Jacinda Ardern ended the Partnership School model, iwi, Pasifika, and community groups were providing innovative education and changing kids' lives for the better, and families could vote with their feet by taking their children to a school that better met their needs.

“Educators must be given the flexibility to respond to a diversity of needs and all children should have a choice in education. Government should fund a range of schools, letting families – not politicians – choose what is best for them, rather than forcing students to attend their closest school.

“ACT also proposes to put parents in control of the education budget. Taxpayers will spend more than $250,000 on education over the life of every child born this year, but parents have little control over how it is spent. We could get much better value for that money if it was used to empower families to choose their school, public or private.

“ACT proposes that every child receives a Student Education Account at the age of two. Each year until a student is 18, $12,000 will be placed in it. At the age of 18, they will receive a further $30,000 for tertiary education, with up to $50,000 available top academic achievers through a scholarship program.

“Parents will be able to spend that money at any registered education institution, public or private, that will accept their child's enrolment. If parents and children are satisfied with the education they are receiving, they can stay at their current school. If not, they can exercise choice and use the funding in their Student Education Account to receive a better education.

“ACT's Student Education Accounts and Partnership Schools will create a vibrant marketplace of educators offering new opportunities for all children. New Zealand needs an education system that celebrates diversity and engages every student.”