Simon Collins has a very good article in the NZ Herald this morning: the first in a series planned on closing the gaps between Māori and Pacific people and other ethnic groups. It is a well researched article, with a strong focus on the relative disadvantage for Māori and Pacific people in relation to employment opportunities and pay. It provides ample evidence of the inequalities in the sphere of employment.
However, the passing mentions given to education, and its relationship with employment are a cause for concern. Unfortunately, there is some support given to the government’s charter school programme and fails to link that with the way such schools are a step towards privatization of education: something that could ultimately increase disadvantages for Māori and Pacific people based on some other evidence in the article.
Collins’ article begins by suggesting that limited and patchy successes in education are not being followed by any similar improvements in employment outcomes for Māori and Pacific people on average. Following this there is no statistical evidence provided on educational inequalities or its relationship with employment outcomes
Official statistics do seem to support a bit of a disconnection between educational success for Māori and Pacific people and poor employment outcomes. Statistics NZ has evidence that there has been some educational improvemnt for Māori. Key findings for 2009 show;
* Non-Māori students have a higher attainment rate in NCEA qualifications, however the rate of increase in attainment over time, is higher for Māori students than that for non-Māori students.
* In year 12, 67 percent of Māori students and 55 percent of year 13 Māori students gained an NCEA qualification (either NCEA level 1, 2 or 3) in 2009.
* While the proportion of most year 12 and 13 students to gain NCEA qualifications seems to have reached a plateau, achievement by Māori males is still improving.
According to a 2008 report on the Statistics NZ site shows a mixed picture for Pacific students in education, showing some improvement for Pacific students in NCEA but overall limited or no progress in closing the gap with Pakeha and Asian students. The report does point to ways of closing the education inequality gap for Pacifc students: the quality and quality of a strong relationship between schools and Pacific parents is a major factor towards improving educational outcomes for Pacific students. The article also points to excellent initiatives for Pacifc students in schools in Kelston, Auckland.
The Collins’ article says:
But 22.7 per cent of young Maori and 20.1 per cent of Pacific people aged 15 to 24 were not in employment, education or training (Neet) last year, compared with only 9.9 per cent of young Europeans and 5.7 per cent of young Asians.
However, this is misleading as indicated by a press release from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment reporting on 2008 and 2010. This says that Māori and Pacific people have experienced a worsening of employment outcomes since the 2008 recession: they are more likely to have become unemployed and to be on benefits. However, more people in these groups have been staying in education. In April 2013, Hekia Parata reported on improved educational outcomes for Māori and Pacific school students (albeit improvements that have marginal impacts on the inequality gaps).
The Collins’ article continues to focus on failures in mainstream education impacting on employment outcomes. It says this in support of charter schools:
Mr Taumoana says mainstream education has failed Maori, but Maori-language schools are more successful and charter school funding offers hope. “We have just done an analysis of Maori-language kura [schools] and wananga [universities] and found the outcomes are far in excess of expectations, with some of the top achievers in the country.”
However, this alleged “hope” for charter schools needs more in depth examination. The Kelston schools’ initiative points to ways that mainstream education can improve education for Pacific students. There is no reason why Māori led-intitatives cannot be provided within the public education system.
Collins’ article also points to the main underlying factor that has increased the inequality gap for Māori and Pacific people: Rogernomics and “neoliberal” policies. It points out how the Clark government’s initial focus on closing the gaps for Māori and Pacific people was scuppered by pressure from Don Brash in 2004. I would also add that the media also aided that pressure. However, in spite of Brash, ministerial led gap-closing initiatives continued with some success. Collins then says this:
But these equalising forces have been outweighed by other changes that made New Zealand much less equal during the Rogernomics era in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when top tax rates were halved, welfare benefits were cut, employment laws halved unions’ share of the workforce, and protection was removed from industries which employed many Maori and Pacific workers.
Charter schools and the related privatisation of education are part of the “neoliberal” ethos: one that clearly has disadvantaged Māori and Pacific people more than other ethnic groups. As Collins reports:
Dr Kukutai says.
“The focus on closing the gaps tends to juxtapose groups in opposition to each other, but really what New Zealand has failed to grasp is that what’s good for Maori is good for the country and that it’s actually in the national interest that all those gaps that continue are remedied.”
In future articles in the series Collins plans to look more closely at education. I hope he gives in depth consideration to the ways educational inequalities can be lessened through initiatives within the public school system, rather than through the charter schools’ privatisation by stealth.
The Collins article is well worth reading for the devastating impact of employment inequalities on Māori and Pacific youth, driving a high proportion of them to Austrialia – and this at a time when the NZ population is aging and needs to retain as much of the young as possible.
See also a related article by Jamie Morton on Māori self-determination via regionally co-ordinated Māori economic development strategy.