Our community, whether in New Zealand or anywhere else in the world, places high value on education. We, like most parents, understand that education is a pillar towards an individual’s and their family’s success both economically and socially.
This National-led Government had based the changes in its recent education policy based on this shared thinking. Our aim is to ensure that we raise the success rates for our kids to five out of five, from the current rate of four out of five.
Our policy is based on our aim; we want to ensure that our kids are capable of competing in the 21st century. We want to lift those who are left behind, and encourage those who are doing better to do even better.
Our approach to reaching this aim is to invest in quality teaching and professional leadership, as this has the biggest effect on raising student achievement. Keeping in line with our approach, we had decided to invest $60 million in quality teaching initiatives, largely funded by making minor changes to teacher:student funding ratios. This would have saved the country $174 million over four years.
However, this Government does not believe in imposing our thinking on New Zealanders. We strongly believe in the democracy we are. It became apparent that the proposed minor adjustments were causing a disproportionate amount of worry for parents. This was never our intention.
We listened very closely to concerns of parents and teachers, and have moved to put their minds at rest by reversing this part of our education plan. We will no longer change the teacher:student ratios.
This does mean that the Government is no longer in a position to invest $60 million towards quality teaching. We will also have to cover the shortfall of $114 million over the budget forecast period. I assure you that our Government will work through managing this shortfall in a balanced and considered manner, and will still return to surplus by 2014/15.
The reversal does not affect the extra $511.19 million that National is investing in to education over the next four. This takes the total Government investment in early childhood education and schooling to a record $9.6 billion for 2012/13.
We remain committed to lifting student achievement through raising teaching quality. Our focus is on working with education sector organisations to address quality issues. We want to identify who is delivering successful teaching practice and make that common practice, to ultimately lift student achievement.
By raising achievement we can help ensure all children have the opportunity to succeed and make the most of their lives.
* Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is a National Party MP