In his weekly column Garth George says:
If anything, apart from the economy, needs a fresh look and new inspiration from the incoming Government, it is education.
New Zealand is right up there with the world leaders – Denmark and Korea – when it comes to the performance of our top students. But unlike those two countries, we have a huge disparity between our top achievers and the rest.
Much of the reason for that is Denmark and Korea are largely monocultural, whereas New Zealand has always had two cultures at least, and latterly a whole bunch more.
And the tail-enders in our education system are, unfortunately, made up mainly of Maori and Pasifika children. Sure, there are many Pakeha kids who also miss out, but they are a minority.
So the most important task of the new Government when it comes to education is to maintain the standards at the top end while at the same time improving the lot of the tail.
He then lauds the new Minister of Education and her Associate Minister and says:
It will not be difficult for the new team to ensure that our top students continue to hold their place among the world’s best, for they are children and young adults who have a real desire to learn and who have wholehearted support from their families.
The real challenge will be to find methods and means to lift the performance of the thousands of children who are at the other end of the educational spectrum and who, by and large, have no parental support.
It is there that the nub of the problem lies. It is all too easy to blame “the system”, or schools, or teachers for the lowly performance of so many kids, but the real fault lies elsewhere – with their parents.
For instance: at a decile 3 school with which I have a minor involvement, whose roll is 93 per cent Maori, at least half of new entrant 5-year-olds have the oral skills of 2-year-olds and no writing skills at all.
Thus the teachers cannot begin at square one; they have to spend huge amounts of time bringing their new charges up to a primary school starting point. [emphasis added]
First I will address the blue parts: educational success in Denmark and Korea has little to do with monoculturalism and a lot to do with the strong work ethic that is prevalent in those countries, because they know that educational success aids vocational success. As George says, successful students are characterised by a desire to learn and parental support.
Now for the red parts. Why do Maori and Pasifika children form the bulk of the “tail-enders”? There are at least three reasons for this:
1) they have a cultural world view which says that one should only think about today. Educational success requires both parent and child to see that today’s actions will have value tomorrow and beyond. Allow me to illustrate.
I live in an area where the majority of the population is Maori or Pasifika and it is very rare to see people on the streets for the sole purpose of exercise. Yet when I go to wealthier areas dominated by Pakeha it is common to see joggers and walkers who are clearly out for some exercise. Exercise is just like education: it requires a care for tomorrow and willingness to sacrifice today in order to gain tomorrow.
2) universal welfare has removed the need to care about tomorrow. If the state will take care of tomorrow by stealing money off people and giving some of it to you every week, along with a house and health care, why give any thought to tomorrow? Education is all about tomorrow and thus gets binned along with all other thoughts about tomorrow.
Compare this with countries that have no welfare system: education is regarded as a privilege and the children are eager to learn because they know that the stakes are high.
3) universal welfare pays people to be uneducated. To put it another way, being uneducated is profitable because you can go to the welfare office and truthfully say “I can’t get a job”. The state then says “You are clearly oppressed by the capitalist pigs, here’s some more money so that you can enjoy equality with those who work hard to pay for your cigarettes and satellite TV”.
Who is responsible for uneducated children? Parents and the welfare system that has destroyed the work ethic.
What can you add to this list of reasons for poor education amongst Maori and Pasifika children?