Parata calls for system shift in education

New Zealand needs to raise the academic achievement of its Maori and Pacific Island students to match those of Pakeha students, Education Minister Hekia Parata said in Queenstown yesterday.

New Zealand had made significant gains, now ranked seventh internationally in Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) reading and literacy proficiency levels.

However, while Pakeha were ranked second in the world, Maori were 34th equal and Pacific students were ranked 44th, Ms Parata said.

"It's a system shift we require," she told New Zealand secondary school principals at their annual symposium.

The Government was aiming to get 85 per cent of primary and intermediate school students at, or above, the national standards by 2017.

At the moment 76 per cent of children reached or exceeded the national standard for reading, 72 per cent of learners for mathematics, and 68 per cent for writing.

Of those who didn't, too many were Maori and Pacific Island students and "too many were boys, brown boys", Ms Parata said.

"By the time these kids get to you they'll need a catch-up of four years - it's a Herculean task. That's why it's important to focus on that individual learner," she told principals.

The Government wanted an additional 42,000 pupils to attain or exceed the national standard in reading, 61,000 in maths and 81,000 more in writing.

"We know family, whanau and aiga must step up and take the challenge. It's a tripartite endeavour ... but schools are pivotal and critical in that."

All children needed to be at school consistently, the same school, with Weet-Bix and milk or porridge in their tummies and Marmite sandwiches packed for lunch.

"I come from Ruatoria and I tell them 'no, kids don't need cranberry chicken and brie paninis - just sandwiches."

Ms Parata said she had told various iwi groups, "good on you, guys" for coming to Wellington to talk about land issues and fisheries, but invited them to come to talk about the education of their children or stay in their area and help support them in the education opportunities available.

"I say the same to Pacific churches and they are all responding.

"We have to find the mechanisms so we don't just all get busy."

New Zealand needed only so many doctors and lawyers. No economy could operate without tradespeople such as plumbers and auto electricians, and principals were urged to meet each individual at their learning need.

She wanted to see another 12,000 preschoolers enrolled in early childhood education by 2016 - an extra 3000 children a year, of which about 1750 should be Maori and about 1350 Pasifika children.

So far, 2,662 more children had enrolled as a result of early learning participation programmes. A further 2661 places were being created.

One in five of New Zealand's 15-16-year-olds was dropping out of secondary school.

Government targets were working towards another 3650 18-year-olds achieving NCEA Level 2, including about 2420 Maori and 950 Pasifika students, 3000 of whom should be males and 650 females.

The Southland Times