VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future V

A Liberal Vision for New Zealand in 2017

This reading carries on from here.

The fourth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Education’. Seymour opens this essay with a mention of Vanguard Military School, the establishment of which he credits to ACT. This is an “exceptional” story because New Zealand’s education system is “a mess”. Although he writes that no-one begrudges the $12,000,000,000 yearly cost of educating New Zealand’s 800,000 students, many people have problems with the outcome.

New Zealand has a lot of problems because people aren’t literate enough, Seymour says. This is why employers “prefer a stream of immigrants”. There is a long, rambling passage here where Seymour touches on a variety of themes, including having a go at Hekia Parata. Apparently New Zealand is going backwards in PISA rankings. It’s hard to tell who Seymour is blaming for the mess in question.

Without a hint of irony, Seymour writes that “the outcomes have got worse for kids from poorer backgrounds”. Most Kiwis could tell him that the reason for these worsening outcomes were the policies of the Fifth National Government, which raised GST on those kids from poorer backgrounds while cutting other people’s taxes, and cutting services to those same poor.

What Seymour pushes here is the idea of a variety of schools with different cultures, which he believes will better suit the individual needs of the various students than the current “one size fits all” model. It follows from this that the Government is not the best provider of education services, because they don’t tend to tailor things to the individual needs of the citizens.

Much of this section reveals the specifically Auckland-centric focus that ACT has always had, and which leads it to get very, very few votes outside of that city. The logic behind the school zoning system is dissected at length, but this only really applies to Auckland and, to a small extent, Christchurch and Wellington. Perhaps Seymour is writing more as Epsom representative here.

True to form as a politician, Seymour demands that teachers be better trained and better resourced, but doesn’t explain where this money will come from. Despite this budget hole, it’s hard to deny that Seymour has several good points here. The cultures of individual schools are usually too sclerotic to adjust to the changing needs of pupils, so they could be supplemented by Partnership Schools that more specifically meet the needs of their students.

These Partnership Schools would be run more like private schools and could be easily closed down at any time if they were underperforming. Seymour touts this as a major feature, on account of the difficulty with doing so in the public sector. Students would be best served by flexibility in the educator sector, which is an intelligent way of increasing value without spending more money.

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