Wednesday, September 10, 2008


National's latest billboard focuses on education, declaring that "1 in 5 school-leavers doesn't pass NCEA. We'll smarten up the system". But while everyone else is focusing on questions of graphic design or producing amusing parodies, I thought I'd ask a completely different question, one that has so far been absent from the entire billboard debate:


National's education policies can be found here. They cover topics such as it's "me too" "youth guarantee" and student loans policies, its "glorified babysitters" ECE policy, and its fetish for trades training and league tables for primary schools. But one area is glaring by its absence: NCEA and secondary schools. That's right - on the very area they focus on in their billboard, National has nothing to say (not even to repeat its announcement last year that they would starve the public education system to give greater subsidies to profit-making private schools like those John Key and his rich mates send their kids to).

Secondary schools and secondary school teachers are obvious levers with which to influence secondary educational outcomes, but National apparently has no plans for them. They have no promises of extra resourcing or proposals on how they should do things differently. Instead, they promise that their primary school statistics fetish will boost literacy and numeracy outcomes, and that this will flow on to secondary qualifications. But its difficult to see how that will happen without an investment of resources - which National simply isn't promising.

Like so many of their other policies, their education billboard is simply empty. But then, that's the Crosby-Textor strategy: a lot of noise, a few simple slogans highlighting problems and promising change, but nothing to back it up. On something as important as education, I think the people of New Zealand deserve better.