MEDIA RELEASE: 9 SEPTEMBER 2014
Teachers aren’t magicians, and we shouldn’t ask them to be
Throughout New Zealand, schools are shouldering the burden of increasing inequality. Breakfast and lunch programmes, school fee waivers, clothing and shoes donations. And that’s before the classroom doors open and teachers unleash their educational wizardry to try and close – or at least soften – the gap between rich and poor.
But really, can sensational teaching alone lift Kiwi kids out of poverty and into highly skilled, highly paid, satisfying and enriching careers?
No. In 2013, the Treasury reported on New Zealand’s low level of ‘educational mobility’: “The link between parents’ socioeconomic status and a child’s educational outcome is very high in New Zealand compared internationally.”
In contrast, both domestic and international research shows that giving a struggling family $1,000 cash, for example, leads to better educational outcomes for their child than giving a school $1,000 to spend on that same child.
Why? Because families want their children to succeed. Families want their children to break free of the poverty trap and take their place in a high-paying, high-productivity workforce. With a decent income, families themselves can address barriers to education (such as hunger or poor health). It’s the child of a family equipped to learn for whom strong education policies will make all the difference.
It isn’t rocket science. It isn’t wizardry. If our politicians are serious about improving educational outcomes, they must show their support by: reducing inequality, and then supporting education policies which ensure that no students miss-out or are left behind; boost teacher training and the quality of teachers; and support high-quality early childhood education.