By AZARIA HOWELL

Sporting a now-crumpled and over-worn dress shirt with eye bags to complete the look, Education Minister Chris Hipkins is hard at work, focusing on the future of our education system. It’s just what sleepless nights and relentless positivity does to you these days. His five-foot-nine frame is looking at vast changes in the education system like a climber at the base of Everest; the youthfully scuffed soles of his black dress shoes making the journey possible. Many have told Hipkins not to change the school system, but he kicks over the “No Trespassing” sign and continues on.

His motivation? The future of New Zealand. It could be a future where young people are at the forefront of policy-making. A future where modern learning environments are seen as the norm. A future focused more on learning than on exam results and extensive stress, even. These future schools that the Ministry are dreaming up are ones where student wellbeing is at the forefront of policy, with gates that are inviting to everyone, including those with disabilities.

The plan is to eventually achieve a high-quality public education system to all New Zealanders, “with the opportunity to achieve their full potential and lead happy and fulfilling lives,” according to the Minister of Education, who is leading the discussions about the future of our education system. The future of us. But what are some of the proposed changes to education made by Hipkins?

The Jacinda Ardern-fronted Labour Party promised a whole lot in their campaign towards governing the country, and some of these promises have been delivered. But, as what seems to now be a Government tradition, some promises have been left in the shadows, behind closed doors. Still, Hipkins is hard at work, spending countless hours in his Parliamentary office, with the commute from Rimutaka to Parliament to schools across the country making him more than just a little bit pressed for time.

The Education Minister promises, “Labour will implement a comprehensive plan for school property to ease pressure on our schools, making sure every child has sufficient time with their teacher to reach their full potential,” which is a very bold statement indeed; a statement which the public might not believe has been upheld by this current government.

The Labour Party 100 Day Plan was drafted up right after Winston Peters’ tense and long awaited for coalition announcement; its purpose was to keep the government accountable. In terms of education policy, the list has been completed. But still, not all promises for education have received the same level of support, funding, and time.

To put things into perspective, you, a high school student are at the forefront of these decisions, and they impact your everyday life without you even thinking about it. Changes to NCEA, reviews of “tomorrow’s schools”, and the possible removal of voluntary donations impact all of us and our families, especially as a part of a public education system. We are the students of the new era of modern education, following in the Minister’s footsteps. In order to hold the government and the Ministry of Education to account, I have decided to give the Government their own ‘report card,’ based on how well they have kept their promises for education, arguably the most important focus of the government, especially for youth.

EXCELLENCE

Fees-free university and training: Drafted as a policy from the Government’s 100-day plan, this policy gained Labour lots of votes from young people. Currently, the first year of tertiary education or training will be fees-free, with the policy eventually shifting to three years. This policy came into place in the first few months of this government’s current term, and students generally seem quite happy with how it has been implemented.

Increases to the student living costs benefit and student allowance: Announced last year, a $50 increase to the student allowance has come into place, along with subsidies for student living costs in order to combat income inequality in education.

Abolish National Standards: National Standards have been scrapped in primary schools across the country, in order not to put unnecessary pressure on children and teachers. It’s been a controversial move for sure, with some parents and educators protesting for the importance of National Standards, however the government kept to their promises and scrapped the lot.

MERIT

Conduct a review of the ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ initiative: Tomorrow’s Schools was a previous government initiative in order to make current schools more modern. To put things into perspective, young people of today are products of the ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ system. A review is set to be conducted on this soon, with two Education Summits happening earlier this year and an extensive amount of consultation is already underway from the current government.

ACHIEVED

Supporting Maori educational achievement: Programmes such as Ka Hikitia and Te Kotahitanga which help Maori achievement have been announced, but not delivered on. Some people argue that the proposed abolition of the charter school system (by turning all charter schools into state schools) would hurt Maori development in education since some of the schools are focused on cultural development and the Maori language.

Fund public schools more and abolish voluntary donations: Public school and education funding have increased in the government’s 2018 budget, however voluntary donations continue to be a burden on families which the Education Minister is looking to reduce.

 

Teachers striking against the Ministry of Education and Minister Chris Hipkins earlier this year. Photo by Tim Onnes.

NOT ACHIEVED

Abolish charter schools: Saving the most controversial policy for last, Labour started off by announcing their plan to abolish charter schools, which are schools run by businesses or iwi groups that are subject to different rules from the Ministry of Education. This then led to Labour MPs threatening to resign, and a backtrack on the policy which outraged voters. The plan, for now, is to keep the schools open, but not build any new ones, as well as transforming each charter school into a state school.

Tearaway is all about giving young people a platform to express themselves, from all points of view; we encourage diversity of opinions, provided they are expressed with respect for those who differ. The opinions expressed may or may not be those of the Tearaway editorial team and Management.

AZARIA HOWELL is a huge politics nerd living in Christchurch. Expect lots of new political articles on Tearaway from her! She also loves snowboarding, Beagles, and wearing clunky boots. @makeazariagreatagain

 

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