Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another sacred cow up for homekill...

You could easily say that I am just being negative. However, I am really trying to be provocative - trying to add some creative thinking into New Zealand politics. (some would argue that any thinking would be a start).

Having questioned the the sacred cow of universal suffrage, I will now move on to my next slow moving target - Compulsory Education.

New Zealand used to offer all its citizens access to Primary and Secondary education for free. University education came with a price tag that was borne directly by the student, though very heavily subsidised. In reality, it was not "free education", as it had to be funded, and that funding came from taxation.

I am definitely a beneficiary of this education system. I used my entire allocation of primary, secondary and tertiary education. I have a Masters degree and a postgraduate diploma on top of that. So, I have done pretty well out of the system. My parents fared even better, as they had all 5 of their children educated through to tertiary level. I am now in the position where I am putting my children through school. On top of the exorbitant rate of taxation I am paying, I am constantly being tapped for more funds for their compulsory education.

In stage one economics I first heard the maxim "Without abstinence there is no investment.". I observed that this was true. Those contemporaries of mine who went through university on a full bursary were "by and large" less studious than those of us who were paying our own way.

Similarly, compulsion does not encourage scholastic achievement. I think a lot of people would agree that schools seem to have become baby sitting centres. Kids must attend until the age of 15, regardless of whether they achieve anything academically.

Now, I think I gave the tax payer pretty good value for money. I spent a long time in the education system, but I passed everything, every year (except for a couple of papers in my first year at University). Since leaving University I have been in paid employment within New Zealand, working for tax paying companies.

What I see now is that while there is compulsion for children to attend school, there is no compulsion for them to actually learn. As taxpayers this should outrage us. We should demand value for money. Our employers appraise us to ensure we represent value for money. Show me the cost:benefit ratio of the state education system in New Zealand. Show me the cost:benefit ratio of each tax payer funded pupil in the school system.

Some day I will give readers the benefit of my insights in to the National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA).

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