Helping young New Zealanders get ahead

Nat11 - photography for Office of JK & National PartyPM Weekly  Column

Last week 140 students from across New Zealand were awarded the opportunity to study at top Asian institutions through the latest round of the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia. The National-led Government believes it’s important to give our next generation a deeper understanding of cultures in countries that are crucial to New Zealand’s future. That’s why we’re investing $9 million over five years in this programme.

New Zealand is a trading nation and it’s important our future workforce has the opportunity to understand some of our most important trading partners while they are studying. These students are the international marketers, the traders, the diplomats, and the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

The Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia programme will see just over half of these students study in China, one of New Zealand’s largest trading partners, while others will study in Japan, India, Korea, Thailand and Indonesia. The National-led Government often talks about young people being the future of the country – that’s why we have such a strong focus on education and ensuring all New Zealand children get the best education possible. Under this Government, children are starting in education earlier, staying longer, and leaving better qualified. For example, the proportion of 18-year-olds achieving NCEA Level 2 in our schools has risen from 68 per cent to around 81 per cent since 2008. This is a great result but we know we can always do more.

Through Budget 2015, total spending on early childhood, primary and secondary education over the next year will increase to a record $10.8 billion, and we’re also providing $113 million more over four years for tertiary education. We’re investing $74.9 million in early childhood education to help children get the best possible start, as well as $244 million to build seven new schools and 241 new classrooms at existing schools, with almost half of the new classrooms located in Auckland. We’re investing $359 million to help the best teachers and principals raise achievement in schools. We want to share expertise across schools, provide better transition for children through the education system, and provide career pathways for teachers.

The first 29 Communities of Schools have started working together to share teaching practices and expertise, keep the best teachers in the classrooms, and support strong leadership in schools. This means more than 200 schools around New Zealand are working with over 83,000 kids to improve education outcomes. Ensuring young New Zealanders get a good education is one of the most important things we can do to raise living standards, and build a more competitive and productive economy.