Education- short term gain and long term pain.

In the first of a series of guest postings from a wide variety of writers, Jacinda Ardern Labour List MP for Auckland gives her personal view on some current education issues.

Jacinda AdernI think that most people can probably point to a teacher, that at some point in their life, made a pretty big difference to them (hopefully for the better). For me, that was my high school history teacher.

While I’m a proud Grey Lynner, I grew up in a small rural town where anyone who wore khaki was immediately labelled a communist, let alone someone who taught you about Ghandi and Parihaka. But this teacher taught me to question everything, and how to stand up for injustice when I saw it. And he did it all within our fantastic education system.

Education has to be one of the most important things we can invest in to secure the best opportunities not only for our kids, but for everyone. The most important place to start is of course with our little ones through early childhood education (ECE). We figured that out when we were in Government and introduced 20 hours free ECE. But I’ve now had to sit and watch as the new government cut $295 million out of this sector, meaning centres like those on Waiheke are having to fund a pretty hefty shortfall, or face the awful reality of having to sack qualified staff.

Primary schools are also going through an incredibly difficult time. They have all just implemented a fantastic new curriculum but, on top of that, the Government asked them to take on the untried and untested National Standards. While I absolutely agree with the argument that parents deserve to know how their child is doing in school, the National Standards go well beyond reporting and have the potential to really hurt our youngest learners. It’s not surprising that quite a number of the Board of Trustees for our local primary schools have decided not to risk participating in National Standards- at the very least this is a policy that should have been trialled first.

But I also believe in lifelong learning, which is why I was also so disheartened by last year’s axing of funding for adult and community education- another cut which hit the Waiheke community.

We are in a recession, I understand and appreciate that- we all do. But I also believe that the way to make New Zealand a smarter and more productive economy is not to cut chunks out of education, but to invest in it. This is the area where we can make our greatest gains, and gains which benefit everyone.

I don’t want my contributions to this blog to always be so overtly political; I do think people are worn down by how antagonistic the political world can be sometimes. But there are some aspects of politics where I make no apology for getting stuck in, and education just happens to be one of them. My old history teacher wouldn’t have it any other way…

Jacinda Ardern | Labour List MP
Labour Party Spokesperson for Youth Affairs
Associate Justice Spokesperson
Wgtn: +64 4 817 9388 | Ak +64 9 360 1641