M P K. S. Bakshi Column
The new school year is upon us with many children now back at school, or preparing to return. Our Government is working hard to ensure all our kids get a better education. We have set Better Public Service targets at early childhood and secondary school, and have also set a target at the critical bridge of National Standards in between. We want to see 98 per cent of all school entrants having participated in early childhood education (ECE) by 2016, and 85 per cent of all 18 years olds having achieved NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification by 2017. We are investing $1.4 billion into ECE, of which $49 million is targeted to communities where participation is low. To reach our ECE target we need to get 12,000 more kids enrolled. We are making good progress with an additional 2,383 children enrolling last year, and a further 2661 places being made available. At primary and intermediate school level we are aiming to get 85 per cent of kids at, or above, the National Standards in 2017. At the moment around 70 per cent of kids are able to read, write, and do maths at or above their year level, but overall boys are trailing girls, and Māori and Pasifika are trailing everyone.
National Standards data is invaluable in supporting students, their parents, and teachers. We are working with schools to better understand and use their data. To reach our target of 85 per cent of 18 year-olds having achieved NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification, we need around 3650 more kids to pass. So we have set up taskforces to work with schools and their communities. We know the most important thing we can do to raise achievement is improve teaching quality and leadership so we are again focused on that this year. Rebuilding the education sector in Christchurch is also a priority. It’s not simply about putting back what was there, but focusing on what can be done to achieve better outcomes for children. The way our children learn today is very different. That’s why we’re investing nearly $200 million in connecting schools to ultra-fast broadband. By 2016, 97.7 per cent of schools will have broadband connections. Education is a passport to a better life. That’s why National is focused on raising achievement for all our kids.