One of the most prominent battlegrounds in this election campaign will be education. Both large parties know our kids deserve better than the two-tier education system we currently have. Both have clear, costed plans they think can help. And now the public can choose.
On one side, Labour wants to give each child more of their teachers’ attention with smaller class sizes, allow schools get rid of the stigmatising influence of “voluntary” donations, and help ensure every kid is learning for the 21st century on a portable digital device. These are practical, at-the-coal-face ideas that are both sound and popular.
National’s idea is really very different. They believe that allowing top Principals to become roaming regional uber-Principals, and doing the same with teachers, will solve the issues.1 They seem to believe that whatever works for decile 10 Taradale School near Napier will be just as effective at decile 1 Te Awa school a few kilometres down the road, as if kids leave their lives at the school gate. Theirs is a one-size-fits-all delusion.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words. Both John Key and Bill English have chosen to send their own kids to private schools. In 2005, the Listener asked John Key why that was:
Mostly for educational reasons. Their schools have smaller class sizes and are better resourced than most state schools.
There you have it. Smaller class sizes are better for kids. The Prime Minister’s actions show that even he believes it. But he is not offering smaller classes for all Kiwi kids. Labour is. The choice is clear.