Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is thrilled by this morning’s announcement from the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins that NCEA fees are to be abolished.
“This is a simple change that will ease the financial burden on low-income households, and one that CPAG has been campaigning for since NCEA was first introduced,” says Professor Peter O’Connor, Education Spokesperson for CPAG.
CPAG has long been concerned about the ‘hidden costs’ of Aotearoa-New Zealand’s so-called free education, which include NCEA fees, voluntary donations, trip fees, uniforms and more recently the introduction of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy within schools.
“For many children, the stigma of not being able to afford education costs, such as NCEA fees, will stay with them for a long time, and impact on the way they view their opportunities to succeed in the world, and their own self-worth,” says Professor O’Connor.
“To have any real impact on children’s lives, the Government must not delay implementation of such important policies until 2020.”
CPAG says that education is a social good and should be paid for through general taxation, not user pays. Currently households in New Zealand share a greater burden of public education costs compared with households in other countries across the OECD. This is inherently unfair, and impacts disproportionately on families living in material hardship and income poverty.
“There are a lot of changes that need to happen before Aotearoa New Zealand can truthfully say that it’s public education is free, and the removal of NCEA costs, which are a burden on so many families, is a great step forward toward that goal,” says Professor O’Connor.
“We are hopeful that the Labour-coalition Government will implement other good policies around education, such as Labour’s policy of offering an extra $150 per student to state and state-integrated schools that don’t ask parents for donations, which it committed to in 2017 as a means for ensuring that schooling is genuinely free.”
A new paper from the Ministry of Education, NCEA Change Package 2019 Overview outlines a raft of changes aimed at improving NCEA for secondary students.
CPAG is heartened by the Government’s intention, alongside removal of NCEA fees, to modify the way that NCEA is delivered, so that it is simpler, students can have a wider range of options and pathways into future training, and to strengthen and acknowledge mātauranga Māori.
CPAG says that alongside provisions inside of schools, as a nation we need to ensure that all families have an adequate income to ensure all their basic needs are met within and outside the home, and that they have safe, stable housing without being forced into constant and costly moves away from school, friends and family/whānau support.
As such it is critical that the Government does not delay implementing the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, outlined in Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand.