Last Wednesday I marked Waitangi Day in the Far North. Waitangi Day means many different things to many New Zealanders. For most of us it’s becoming a day to look forward, rather than back. In my speech I reflected on the measures that the National government is taking to improve outcomes for our young people, so that we can better realise the human potential that this country has. We’re committed to making meaningful improvements to people’s lives, and I firmly believe that education is a fundamental part of this. A good education is a passport to a better life. We are strongly focused on lifting educational achievement and we are working hard to ensure that all our kids get a better education.
Currently, four out of five kids are successfully getting the qualifications they need from school, but the Government’s plan is about getting five out of five. We want all our kids to leave school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economy. That means lifting up those who are being left behind, and encouraging those who are doing well to do even better. Despite tight fiscal times, our Government has increased our investment in education in each of the last four Budgets to meet our priorities in this area. We are investing $9.6 billion into early childhood education (ECE) and schooling in 2012/13 – the most ever.
To achieve our goal of five out of five kids achieving, we have set Better Public Service targets at early childhood and secondary school level:we want to see 98 per cent of all school entrants having participated in ECE by 2016, and 85 per cent of all 18 years olds having achieved NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification by 2017. New Zealand has a world class education system. That hasn’t happened by accident and won’t continue without attention. The actions we have taken to date, and the ones we plan for this term in Government, will enable us to raise education achievement and deliver on our plan to build a brighter future for all New Zealanders.
Also last week, I met Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was in Queenstown for the annual Australia-New Zealand Prime Ministers’ talks. This year’s talks mark 30 years since New Zealand-Australia Closer Economic Relations (CER) began. This is one of the most comprehensive and successful trade agreements in the world, so her visit was a great opportunity to reflect on the importance of CER to both our countries.
I will be travelling to Wellington this week with the House sitting again. I look forward to updating you again soon.