The Anti-Education Government

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, May 25th, 2010 - 33 comments
Categories: budget 2010, education - Tags:

Last year ACE, this year ECE.

What has this government got against education? Once again it’s the big loser in a National budget. It’s enough to make you believe a conspiracy theory that they want to keep us ignorant so we’ll be more likely to vote them in…

The massive cut in Early Childhood Education is going to have a devastating impact on parents of young children, and the academic performance of the children of middle and low income earners. The cut in ACE stopped adults getting a second chance, but this cuts away at pre-schoolers before they even get their first.

Pre-school education is an important indicator in how well children will do at primary and secondary school. It’s obvious: the kid who knows how to read when they turn up at the school gates has a massive head-start on the one that doesn’t. And now many poorer families will be opting out of ECE as it’s too expensive. They’ll either load the kids around to Auntie’s or Granny’s place, or put them in a cheaper daycare where, without teachers, the kids play but don’t learn.

Childcare owners are now in an invidious position: they’ll need to put their prices up massively to cover the $400 million shortfall, and have parents pulling their children out. Either that, or sack those staff they’ve helped through training to replace them with unskilled staff, and see the quality of their care plummet.

As someone with a 2-year-old, seeing the directed play at their ECE centre that helps them learn to count and develop language skills etc is very reassuring that my child will get the best start in life. I worry for those who will now miss out.

This government seems to think education is unimportant; that having a skilled workforce isn’t how to get higher-earning jobs for this country. No, we can afford to slash education and R&D spending because National’s big idea is to dig stuff out of the ground and let Australian companies make money out of it – that’ll help close the wage gap.

33 comments on “The Anti-Education Government”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    “Either that, or sack those staff they’ve helped through training to replace them with unskilled staff, and see the quality of their care plummet.”

    Or give pay cuts to the skilled staff so they are earning what an unskilled person would. Even a job paying less than you’re worth is better than no job at all. Since there are apparently many ECE centers that do not yet have over 80% of their staff as trained teachers, and they still receive the funding, the trained staff that are replaced by unskilled staff can go to one of the centers that are yet to meet their quota.

    Yes, I agree that overall the children are going to be hurt, but it need not necessarily be an out-and-out loss for all of the teachers themselves.

    • Bright Red 1.1

      A pay cut isn’t a loss, lantie?

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        “but it need not necessarily be an out-and-out loss”

        Yes, a pay cut is a loss, but I said “out-and-out loss”, eg it’s better to have a job getting paid less than you’re worth, than no job at all. I also pointed out that jobs will still be available as the government has not cut the funding for skilled staff completely, just set the quota at 80%.

    • prism 1.2

      “Or give pay cuts to the skilled staff so they are earning what an unskilled person would. Even a job paying less than you’re worth is better than no job at all.”<i/

      That is what has been happening to many highly educated married women who have left the workplace to raise children. It is not a satisfactory move to formalise this ad hoc arrangement which is unfair to women, fulfilling their vital role in society in the best way they can.

  2. Pat 2

    If you wanted your 2 year old to get the best start in life, you wouldn’t be sending him/her to a childcare centre. One of the parents would be staying at home. Just saying.

    • Mother or Father care up until about age 2 is best, but after that they will gain a lot more from the social interactions of a play centre or creche or what ever

      • Pat 2.1.1

        (Speaking from experience): the range of “care” among childcare centres is so wide and varied, that in some cases I would say your child is worse off by attending fulltime. Some have an educational focus to prepare kids for school, others have a hands-off “free-play” philosophy that is nothing more than law of the jungle. Be very careful where you send your kids, because you may be shocked to know what goes on when you are not around.

        • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1

          “others have a hands-off “free-play’ philosophy that is nothing more than law of the jungle. ”

          That’s the whole point of hiring trained and skilled staff in early-childhood education, so that eventually all childcare centres will focus on education. Of course some will always be better at it than others, but ideally all centres will be better than they presently are.

          • Pat 2.1.1.1.1

            Sorry, but the centres I have seen where this goes on have qualified staff. It’s the philosophy of the centre that causes this (e.g. the “hands-off” approach where they believe kids learn by making their own choices/decisions about what to do/play) but instead it becomes survival of the loudest/strongest. A great time for the bullies, but other kids spend their days in misery, and are too young to know any different or communicate this to their parents.

            • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1.1.1

              In that case yeah, the correct response is a market approach. Parents need to shop around, and those centres providing poor service will be forced to up their game, or close.

            • lprent 2.1.1.1.1.2

              A bit like the sewer at kiwiblog from the description 😈

            • ianmac 2.1.1.1.1.3

              Ah Pat. How did you get to see all this bad stuff happening at so many Care centres? Not um lurking were you?

    • Pascal's bookie 2.2

      And if that means you can’t afford to pay the rent, or the groceries, or have heat in the child’s bedroom?

      Still all good right, because the only reason both parents ever work is that they just don’t care about their kids.

      Arsehole. Just saying.

      • Pat 2.2.1

        So you can’t afford to pay the rent or the groceries, but reckon you can afford to have kids?

        • Pascal's bookie 2.2.1.1

          So if circumstances change people should do what Pat? Sell their kids?

          All I’m saying is that families have all sorts of situations and to just say that we should snap our fingers and assume that everyone can afford to have a parent stay home for 5 years straight is delusional.

          But nah. Let’s just say they don’t care about their kids or they shouldn’t have had them in the first place and wash our collective hands of it.

          • frustrated 2.2.1.1.1

            What’s your centre looking at charging extra per week under the new funding agreement I’ve heard the figure of around $25 per week bandied about and that only around half of the ECE centres will be affected.

            • Pascal's bookie 2.2.1.1.1.1

              Dunno. Doesn’t affect my family much. We’re fortunate.

              I just got pissed off at Pat’s blithe assumption that there are no family situations such that using a childcare centre is the best option realistically available.

          • Pat 2.2.1.1.2

            Enjoying your little flame war?

            All I am saying is that, if you are planning to have kids, and want to give them “the best start in life”, then one parent staying at home will usually acheive this.

            But not always. Some parents are bloody hopeless and some childcare centres are excellent, so in that case the kids would be better off.

            Other cultures – maori, pacific island, indian – often use wider whanau (usually grandmother) to care for the kids so the parents can work.

            The Nats ECE changes actually help mothers/fathers to stay at home longer, by giving them the opportunity to work in their childs early childhood centre without having to obtain a qualification, which they may not have the money/time/inclination to do. Often the best early childcare workers are mothers or fathers who are using their time out of the wider workforce to raise their children. Labour’s ECE qualification requirements were driving a lot of these very good people out of the industry. Sure, they might return to their old jobs once their kids are at school, but everyones kids would have benefitted from the time they spent in early childcare.

            • Pascal's bookie 2.2.1.1.2.1

              Which is a much more rounded statement than your initial comment, which simply implied that parents send their kids to childcare because they don’t care if they get a good start in life or not. In case you’ve forgotten, here it is.

              “If you wanted your 2 year old to get the best start in life, you wouldn’t be sending him/her to a childcare centre. One of the parents would be staying at home. Just saying.”

              I called bs on that and you then talked about whether or not such parents should have had kids. Bit late to start crying about a flame war Pat.

    • Bright Red 2.3

      because we all have that economic option, eh Pat?

      If there had been tax cuts for working families rather than the rich, maybe more families could afford to do that.

      • Lanthanide 2.3.1

        Given National’s huge flattening of the tax structure, I would actually be in favour of income splitting for tax purposes, now. Previously I rejected it because it would be a huge help to those on the 38/39% rate, but as that’s now been cut down to 33%, that objection doesn’t stand. Probably income tax splitting could go some way to helping phase out WFF, which has the high marginal tax rates that no one enjoys.

        So that’ll probably be National’s next budget, or election promise. That, or changing the thresholds (or both). It has always been a pet-policy of Peter Dunne, and one part of his agreement with National this time was a goal of 10/20/30% tax rates, which looks like has been mostly achieved.

  3. prism 3

    The best start in life for a 2 year old is having a parent or caring relation at home for most of the time with them, and also attending a childcare centre for a few hours a week/day. If the parent can also attend the childcare centre that would be good too. Getting out of the house is an opportunity for socialisation and experiences outside the family environment for both child and parent .

  4. toad 4

    I suspect it has a lot to do with the Education portfolio having the weakest and thickest Minister of the whole sorry lot, and that Tolley loses all her battles at Cabinet.

  5. tc 5

    I always thought she was given the job because she’ll do what she’s told and thought isn’t required just adherence to the NACT strategy and the slogans of spin to act as ‘robust’ answers.

    She’s got competition from the likes of Wilkinson/Bennett/Collins who are more interested in career advancement (by following orders) and the baubles of power rather than great outcomes for NZ in their respective portfolios.

    The higher ed institutions are politically more savvy and able to tie Tolley in knots (which isn’t hard as she never seems prepared or competant) so bovver boy Joyce was given that so she could focus on the other slash n burn incentives like this. Joyce is used to this sort of rough n tumble from his corporate days.

    Utlimately it’s ideology over everything such as logic or evidence and that classic old ‘we can afford it so why should we subsidise others’ atitude Muldoon would be proud of.

    • marsman 5.1

      One hears that English tells Tolley what to do and what to say. That way he can wreck the economy and the Education System at the same time.

  6. prosaic 6

    I hate National and John Key and have never supported a National government but your argument is pretty one-dimensional here.

    “It’s obvious: the kid who knows how to read when they turn up at the school gates has a massive head-start on the one that doesn’t.”

    Citation please. Obvious? Maybe to someone who hasn’t got involved in their children’s learning much. And as for the distinction you make between play and learning..perhaps you could do some Playcentre training or some such and you may realise that children learn through playing. The kid with the “massive head-start when they turn up at the school gates ” is one who has been nurtured in a loving and responsive environment, whose parent/carer has talked to them and explored alongside them in such a way that they have developed a grasp of counting/numbers, words/letters, and the rest of the world before them. This can happen at home and it can happen in playcentres/kindys or daycare centres. And, low-and-behold, it doesn’t require a qualified and registered teacher. Caring parents do it every day, all the time. Give our kids a break, let them explore and learn through their exploration in their pre-school years. Such a child will not fail at school and will quickly learn to read and do maths. And give Pat a break. He/she made a valid point which you all chose not to consider just because it wasn’t all spelt-out and considered deeply (a bit like the writing on the Standard–I cite the two examples above).

    • felix 6.1

      It’s a valid point you make about children learning in different ways at different developmental stages.

      It’s also very important for brain development that certain things are learned in a particular order before other things can be learned.

      It is precisely the type of understanding of child development you describe that is so important for EC teachers to possess, and this is a significant part of the training of qualified EC teachers.

      There is a lot of pressure from parents to “prepare their kids for school” and in too many instances centres are bowing to this pressure.

      From my own observations of people working in this area it is not the properly qualified EC teachers who try to push kids in a particular direction too early due to pressure from parents (and the owners of centres) to make sure their little darlings don’t get “left behind” – quite the reverse.

    • ianmac 6.2

      Excellent post Prosaic. Some people think that if you learned to read before school the kids would be better off. Not so. (Some kids learn to read by themselves through living in a book home. One of my sons did but it was no special advantage.)
      Hope you don’t mind prosaic: “The kid with the “massive head-start when they turn up at the school gates ‘ is one who has been nurtured in a loving and responsive environment, whose parent/carer has talked to them and explored alongside them in such a way that they have developed a grasp of counting/numbers, words/letters, and the rest of the world before them.”

    • Carol 6.3

      In a group childcare/education situation, it is different from what a parent does in the home with a small number of children. And not all parents are automatically good at child rearing. Also, qualified people learn about how to work with children who have difficulties of one kind or another, and how to spot when a child needs more attention or help in a particular area. They also should be able to advise parents on futher ways of helping, educating, supporting or nurturing the child at home. And they also should know about various kinds of safety issues.

      In the home it’s hit & miss as to whether a parent is senstive and aware emough to give the child the kind of attention they need. And middleclass parents are more likely to provide the kinds of activities, and behaviour models that will enable a child to benefit most from the post-5-year old education system.

      Saying that “any parent knows how to provide the right kind of attention” or ditto for any untrained childcare worker, so undervalues the job. You could just as easily say that anybody who has done a load of DIY at home or messed about with electronic equipment could do a engineer’s job without training/qualifications.

      And, furthermore, even though some males now do more childcare work and parenting than in the past, the default position is still seen as female work. Childcare work is traditionally undervalued & underpaid because it has a tradition of being classified as women’s work. In the past people assumed any woman would naturally make a good parent or childcare worker – the “maternal instinct” thing. Saying people can do the job without training because some people are naturally good at it, is just one step removed from that kind of stereotyping, and still has the whiff of a gender prejudice.

      • prosaic 6.3.1

        Carol, your comment seems to be on what I wrote but you have placed in quotation marks something I neither said nor implied. And nor do I even believe it. Perhaps you are right and National’s move undervalues the professional role of (largely) female ECE teachers and is gender prejudiced. My comment pointed out that a pre-school child’s learning is not distinct from their playing and that the child who starts school already knowing how to read is not necessarily at a real advantage. Neither point implies that ECE is unnecessary. I also aimed to allude to the value of Playcentre (parent-led learning alongside children) if what a parent wants is the best start for their child (and is able to prioritise such a choice over income from working). While I can cite only anecdotal evidence for this, Playcentre kids generally do very well when they start school, despite never having had any child care experience (and Playcentre children represent a wide range of demographics).

        Finally, I am concerned when middle class, middle income, educated parents think that their children being in the full time care of child care workers offers them more than being at home and attending something like Playcentre–particularly for under-threes. I am also concerned when any parent believes that their child being able to read before they start school is a valuable goal. While I believe that qualified ECE teachers are neither necessary nor sufficient for good pre-school learning, I had no intention of undermining the often wonderful and valuable job qualified ECE teachers do and you were wrong to read that into my comments.

  7. Chris 7

    I’ve always thought that National MP’s had a bad time at school and are now getting there own back.

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