Estimates Debate - Education

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I am really pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this education Estimates debate.

I would like to congratulate Ministers Parata and Joyce for increasing the appropriation by 2½ percent to $11 billion—not just throwing money at the appropriations but actually targeting it and being bold enough to invest in data, for example, to use that data to enable them to target it at students who need it to get all of the services and the right education for each level right through to the tertiary sector.

What we have seen in the past is Governments throwing money at education and thinking they are going to get a better result. Although you may get some minor improvement, it is not an investment in the future, and we really need to do that.

I would like to talk about the Communities of Learning (COL). We have got a fantastic COL in Blenheim. I think every person will fondly remember a teacher who made a big difference for them. The whole idea of a COL is to seek out those particular teachers and let their skills and their techniques be shared by others. It is not just about knowing the subject; it is about getting that idea across.

As I go around my electorate and visit the schools, it is quite obvious—it is not the knowledge that the teacher has; it is how they get that across. It is an intangible thing, almost, but the COL is going a long way to actually bridging that divide and getting all the teachers up to that same level.

I think it is really brave to go and—it is not the easy path to take, by any means, and you will not get immediate results, necessarily, but it is an investment in the future. I congratulate you for doing that, and I think it is fantastic.

I would also like to talk about—we’ve got some data, the Minister touched on it before, that has just been released. It was a bold target to have 85 percent of 18-year-olds achieve NCEA level 2 by 2017. In my electorate, 86.1 percent have done that, so we are ahead of the target. That is a fantastic result, and we have got that data now—we can all share in that.

This is what education is all about. In every other sector we would measure the performances against one another—that is how you get improvement. If you do not compare and learn, how are you ever going to improve?

I really congratulate you for going down this path. I think what we really want, instead of the old league tables about how schools are achieving by how many people achieve excellence in NCEA level 3, let us get to a point where we can see that the schools that top the league table are the ones that have students achieve at or above their potential—not some headline number about who passes NCEA level 3 with excellence. I am really looking forward to that day, and I hope that day comes soon.

I would also like to touch on the tertiary sector, and, once again, I think the Minister has made a bold step by increasing the subsidy in the STEM subjects. What we know, when we look at ourselves compared with other OECD countries, is that we do not have as many graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

If we want to keep up with our trading partners, if we want to be successful in a modern world, we need graduates in those areas. It is really important that we get the investment in the right place to ensure that occurs.

In the past, universities in particular have churned out students who have degrees that have much lower course costs because they do not have laboratories, etc., which cost a lot more money. Putting that subsidy in, or increasing it for those subjects, will make it much more attractive for those universities to encourage more students through in those subjects. We will all be the richer for that.

We also cannot forget, of course, apprenticeships. There is an extra $14.4 million to try to achieve 5,500 more apprentices by 2020. Last year, in fact, we had over 42,000 apprentices enrol to go through various trades.

I think that is a really important area, particularly when we have got something like our situation at the moment, where we have got a huge construction boom going on in New Zealand. We need tradespeople. They are just as important as university graduates, if not more so in numbers.

So it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. Thank you.