To improve education standards we must reduce inequality


It’s been refreshing to see National putting our crisis in student underachievement into the spotlight. The crisis is real, it’s measurable and its worsening. It is a crisis which is deeply damaging to our society and to the future prospects of our students.

Underachievement stunts students’ intellectual growth, reduces their ability to think critically about their lives and the world around them and dramatically reduces their life choices.

For some time this underachievement has been masked by a gradual lowering of educational standards and entry criteria for tertiary study. It can’t be masked any longer. We have a crisis and Luxon is right to point this out.
On the positive side, another aspect of National’s approach is a welcome change from the past. Traditionally National has always sought to drive a wedge between teachers and parents. It has tried to get parents to blame schools and teachers for any perceived failures. This time National is leading without a frontal attack on teacher unions and is proposing a detailed policy instead. It’s the wrong policy but at least he recognises there is a serious problem and has a plan while the government looks like it’s floundering, adrift without a rudder.

In the wake of National’s announcement there have been many suggestions for what has gone wrong. Social media influences, pervasive cell phone use, more students with multiple learning needs, poverty in homes where life is a daily struggle. All these factors are important but they are not in themselves the main reason for the systemic problem we face.

The key driver of the crisis in student underachievement is the growing inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand. This drop in standards has been predictable and understandable for a long time but there has been a wilful refusal by Labour and National to make the changes, on taxation in particular, which would reduce inequality and drive-up student achievement.

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The link between inequality and education underachievement was first spelt out clearly by UK academics Wilkinson and Pickett in their 2009 ground-breaking study reported in their book “The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better”.

The education graphic with this blog comes from their Equality Trust website and was done in 2009 when New Zealand was closer to the top in international rankings of student achievement. Since then, under National’s John Key and the current Labour government, inequality has spiralled and New Zealand has moved further to the right on the graph (increasing inequality) and down (decreasing education standards)


It’s a case of our chickens coming home to roost and no amount of Christopher Luxon’s testing will make a blind bit of difference.

There’s an important side issue here for New Zealand. Take the case of the US – the apple in the eye of David Seymour’s Act Party. Look at where the US is on the chart with Democrats and Republicans continually wailing about poor student achievement. The US is the richest country in the world but one of the most unequal and it is an education disaster zone for students. The US has promoted privatisation of education through charter schools over several decades with the aim of improving student achievement and the result is staggering failure. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand these US-led “privatise education” policies which are promoted by Act will drive our students further down.

The choice going forward is clear. To improve educational standards we must reduce inequality, and the underfunding of critical public services which goes with that. This means serious tax reform. At the moment the people on the lowest incomes pay the highest proportion of their income in tax compared to the wealthy and super-wealthy who pay peanuts in tax by comparison.

Abolishing GST and introducing a Financial Transactions Tax, a Wealth Tax and a Capital Acquisitions Tax would be a great place to start.

Come on Chippy – let’s do this too!


  1. We have a person who self identifies as PM who can not define a women. Surely the fish rots from the head down.

    • @ rb. Oh, thank God for that. I always worry that you’ll start making sense.
      Before we tax to augment change lets first understand how the AO/NZ multi-billionaire cult became multi-billionaires in a small country who’s only viable export is agricultural products to the Northern Hemisphere? Well anyone? Any ideas? Clue time. Passenger rail? Where is it? Four now foreign owned banks stealing $180.00 a second out of our economy. How? Auckland City. How? ANZ. BNZ. ASB. Where are they? And why is Westpac the AO/NZ gubbimint bank? How? Why? AO/NZ’s essential infrastructure. Where is it and who now owns it because it isn’t fucking us? Multi billionaires peter thiel ( Pay Pal) and larry page, ( Google ) bought AO/NZ citizenship. How? And why? Jonky sold our AO/NZ to peter thiel after a 12 day application process. How? And where’s the money?
      To the offshore rich we’re schmucks who, by no other reason than blind good luck, just so happen to be living on one of the most beautiful places to be left not on fire on Earth. And of course you know what that means. Everyone’s going to come here and try and fuck us without the kissing and the billionaire cult will be lining up to pimp us out with jumbo size tubes of lube.
      We really need a public commission of inquiry and a team of independent forensic accounts to go up our multi billionaire cult like an over-enthusiastic proctologist after a line of good Colombian.

    • Its not up to MEN to define a women. They’re perfect capable of doing that for themselves. Men have a hard enough time defining themselves.

      Try getting a WCM to admit their toxic culture has generally been the problem rather than the solution…

      And then the brave souls who do admit it mostly get tarred with the woke brush as though they’re some ‘race’ traitor…

      …or conversely, go full retard, proclaim their WCM identity as though they’re on the rainbow spectrum and come out of the closet spoiling for a fight.

      Then, after spitting the dummy, throw their toys out of the cot and stomp around in jackboots proclaiming the end of the world as we know it.

      Reality is, its the end of the world as they knew it and about fucking time!

      Of course there is still the inequality and the dumbing down of the great unwashed to deal with, but that’s secondary to their ‘feelz’ about no longer having free reign to lord it over the ‘other’ as they were want to do with traditional impunity.

      What’s a brother to do, let alone a sister or a child ?

    • Now that is reaching like only an overstuffed sausage could… Surely dealing with real world issues isn’t that frightening for you? Or am I talking to a 14 year old who just found out his parents still have sex?

    • more ladyboy obssesion bratty? just go on holiday to thailand and get it out of your system son

  2. Education is the pathway out of the poverty trap that is so entrenched in this country.
    An attempt to persuade some people not to have children so that teachers have children in front of them with parents that are interested in a good outcome. This would lead to happy teachers who would impart their enthusiasm for learning to the pupils .
    This combined with smaller classes would have the schools turning out the educated leaders we need to make this country the haven it should be .

  3. One of the biggest inequity is caused by the lack of pay parity for woman.

    If our PM can’t even describe what a woman is now, and NZ woke try to stop a woman’s rights group from speaking here.

    Constant ideology is destroying NZ education and creating a generation of intolerant snowflakes and Intellectual Yet Idiots, that have eradicated labour from wealth and debate from protest.

    Cancel culture is very unproductive and dangerous.

    If you juxtapose Marama’s rant against cis white males and add another identity “Jewish” instead – we go back to 1930’s when Jews were blamed for everything wrong in history too.

    I guess that is why the woke want to cancel history so that nobody finds out how Nazi’s get into power and can take over a country with ideology.

    I doubt the woke is even left, these woke mobs are probably funded by anti democracy groups. They are defiantly getting value for money with all the disruption and division being created in the West by woke cancelling.

    As for woke in charge of construction or anything real – we see the out come with Sky path.

    Sky Path – after much ‘consultation’ a resource consent was granted, tens of millions of dollars to consultants and over 10 years of pretending, before it was canned as not being possible, shows the woke construction cycle.

    Woke in charge. Pretend you have solution, spend millions on consulting and consultants, get a resource consent and tens of millions of funding, milk it for a decade, then reveal it is not going ahead and no interest in where all the money went and why it was allowed to go down the toilet.

    That is what happens when you skill people in not being able to think for themselves and don’t believe in expertise rather than ideology.

    • “One of the biggest inequity is caused by the lack of pay parity for woman. ”

      Would you care to elaborate, saveNZ?

  4. You started off well John. It’s good that both sides are now recognizing that we’re in trouble. It’s also good that you admit it’s happened under both Labour and National. Actually, I think the slide started with NCEA and the Clark government.
    Then you jump off the rails and accuse ‘inequality’ of being the driver of poor educational outcomes, justifying it with a point cloud with enormous scatter. I could draw a similar chart with any number of things as the horizontal axis and get a similar result.
    Try this thought experiment: Here we are in NZ, and I invite a dozen billionaires to come and live here (James Cameron’s friends say) thus increasing ‘inequality’. How does that affect the operation of schools? Clearly it doesn’t.
    Meanwhile many social science studies have already identified the breakdown of the nuclear family and long-term welfare dependency as the real causes. The problem is in the home. If a well nurtured child is delivered to the school on time every day, that child will, nearly always do well. But if that child has FAS, was a meth baby or gets regularly bashed by a string of his mother’s boyfriends then no educational system is going to fix it.

    • Thats a very narrow view Andrew to solely blame bad parenting while this explains some of the problems it not entirely to blame. Some children still fail at school despite having good parents I flunked school but went to Uni later in life. We also have to look at our curriculum namely, what is being taught, how it’s being taught and who is teaching it. If you look at our public schools teaching has become female dominated and mostly pakeha women. We need more men teaching and we need more ethnic groups including Maori and PI teachers.
      Some children need people who can relate to them better and some need good male role models.

      • Agreed. It’s a multifactorial problem as are most social phenomena.

        Maybe in number two position I would include the castration and feminization of the maths and science syllabus. At about 14 years old I was suddenly galvanized by maths, physics and chemistry. Mathematics provides the trigonometry for laying cannon, quadratic equations provide the ranging of cannon and chemistry the ‘terminal ballistics’. From then on, I was all ears! My ‘O’ and ‘A’ level exams were full of this stuff. My English Language ‘O’ level included a description of making a hydrogen bomb for comprehension. LOL Life was good!
        Not so these days. It’s all been dumbed down. No more rockets and cannon. Today, Jane tosses an apple to Mary. No wonder the boys are bored to tears!

        • Keeping it simple, primary school children need to leave school knowing how to read, write, communicate (speak and listen) and have some basics math’s skills. We don’t all need to learn Pythagoras theory or Shakespeare. Communication is being lost due to technology as is listening making it harder for some children to learn. There are other ways to get children engaged and we should use all means to do so. We also need to teach children about money and later about civics. We had post office bank accounts, and we use to back 20 cents a week.

    • ‘But if that child has FAS, was a meth baby or gets regularly bashed by a string of his mother’s boyfriends then no educational system is going to fix it.’
      Those examples you’ve mentioned aren’t your typical middle or upper class communities they’re typical of lower social economic society again Andrew got another meme backwards.

      • I feel Andrew is correct in the cause of poor public education being down to poor parents . There are good parents in the lower social economics and poor parents in other income brackets. Due to the size of classes there is a good chance that there will be a section of the students that do not want to learn and the parents do not encourage them .These pupils can take up a lot of time and effort which should be spent actually teaching..The teachers finish up tired and dysfunctional and their enthusiasm gone.

      • It’s all about the average Stephen.
        When my kids were at school there were kids so dysfunctional that schools placed legal injunctions against them entering school grounds after they’d been expelled. My daughter’s grades in high school improved significantly once the entire ‘whanau class’ had been expelled for smoking dope in the toilets, because she could then actually hear the teacher.
        This was on the North Shore, so imagine what Manurewa is like!

    • Very narrow indeed, I know I was at school on time every single day, well fed, well shod – but education, yes I can read and write. Most of my education happened much later on in life because I have always been an avid reader.

      • Exactly and the opposite could be said of our Bob’ arrogant in his description of his Dulwich school upbringing and look how he turned out. Morally, intellectually and socially bankrupt and tainted with his lewd Dulwich upbringing.

        • Gosh Bert steady on old chap.
          I do know a woman is an adult female,so I’m more clever than our Prime Minister the Chipster.
          As an aside wasn’t he the previous Minister of Education?

    • National introduced NCEA. Bolger and Shipley government.
      National’s idea and nowt to do with Labour!

  5. Why should those who can pay more do so ? There’s nothing intrinsically fair about that: the reasons for progressive income tax regimes ultimately derive from basic socialist envy.

    A proportional tax regime is fair (all income levels pay the same%), perhaps with a low income tax free threshold to acknowledge the net taxpayers charity.

    • Social good, benefits the society and the wealthy.
      No society will flourish based on fairness principles only.
      Society must agree on the social contract. Where society cannot agree on what a woman is and how to enforce the law, we are doomed.

    • Besides which Robbie, there really is no shortage of money in our education system. Compared to the primary school of my childhood – an uninsulated, 18th century building with a coal fire in the corner, one blackboard and 35 kids in the class – todays schools are a paradise. Yet somehow, it seems I received a better education than most do today.
      Why is that?
      Maybe it’s because we were drilled in times tables and spelling then my mom checked my homework. Also, we didn’t waste our time learning karakia and everything was in English, until high school.
      If we wish to spend more on schools, I suggest we reduce the 4,000 staff in the Ministry of Education in Wellington and redirect some of that cash at the schools.

      • Don’t be a fool Andrew, every bit of the Maori language one learns is good for us.

        Also, we didn’t waste our time learning karakia and everything was in English, until high school.

  6. I partly agree with John. Inequality results in parenting and behavioural issues and also truancy problems. However the three CHB primary schools my grandkids have been involved with have pupils from all socioeconomic groups and don’t have behavioural and attendance problems for the most part. All I can do is compare their knowledge with what I was taught at that time, and they know less than our generation at that level. Less basics less general knowledge, issues with the way maths is taught and being unprepared for high school. To my mind the syllabus has changed over the last fifty years, and although learning may be more interesting now, if you leave school not being able to spell count and comprehend, you are effectively unemployable.

  7. No-one can plot a trend line through those data points.

    The cause and effect argument is plain wrong. The entire point of improving education outcomes is the create a more equality of opportunity. More equality of opportunity will lead to better outcomes for the group.

    Improving education outcomes will reduce inequality.

  8. What is wrong with education now, where do you start? Woke and right wing ideology are hand in hand to destroy any steps made to address inequality.

    The natural conclusion of Grifter woke, who seek to cancel and put down others. From the US.

    A Black DEI Director Canceled by DEI

    “From the beginning, efforts to obstruct my work were framed in terms that might seem bizarre to those outside certain academic spaces. For instance, simply attempting to set an agenda for meetings caused my colleagues to accuse me of “whitespeaking,” “whitesplaining,” and reinforcing “white supremacy”—accusations I had never faced before. I was initially baffled, but as I attended workshops led by my officemates and promoted by my supervising dean, I repeatedly encountered a presentation slide titled “Characteristics of White-Supremacy Culture” that denounced qualities like “sense of urgency” and “worship of the written word.” Written meeting agendas apparently checked both boxes.”

    To NZ.

    Another note on academic decline.

    “But academic managerialism soon struck in the form of a new VC. From then on it was a slippery slope or rush to the bottom to put “bums in seats” in order to secure EFT (Equivalent Full Time) funding. Managers began to interfere with what used to be purely departmental and classroom decisions. Research funding contacted and was subject to generic competitive models that did not account for disciplinary specificity. The union-busting project against the house collective bargaining agent for staff began in earnest and accelerated thereafter. People with research and teaching talent began to leave and boot-licking academic driftwood began to pile up. Promotion and tenure decisions were revised so that quantity rather than quality of research output and publication became key criteria for advancement.

    This led to a rush towards “crony collaborations” in which academic friends produce edited collections in local or profit-oriented publication outlets and publish articles in journals edited by each other, without the scrutiny normally undergone by the peer-review process required by internationally-recognised publishers (say, in my discipline, World Politics, International Security or the International Political Science Review or Cambridge or Princeton University Presses). What used to be the norm when it came to research output rapidly became the exception to the “quantity over quality” rule ( I got a taste of this when I was advised to list my editorials and media appearances on the contrived and biased PBRF reviews required to justify departmental funding).

    Towards the end of my tenure and afterwards, newer hires were increasingly recruited from non-elite graduate programs and paid at comparatively lower levels than during my first years in residence. Their PR and self-marketing skills became as or more important as their contributions to original research in the discipline. The employer demanded that courses generate a profit and, once the STEM disease set in, that they prove relevant to the Science, Technology, Economics and Management priorities of the tertiary funding model. “Non-profitable” departments like Classics or Indonesian Studies were soon eliminated.

    Fees-paying foreign student enrolments increased under diminished admission standards. Existing degree requirements were lowered and “certificate,” “diploma” and other types of shallow qualification study programs proliferated. Flash buildings were built and more acquired (including a former brewery and a mansion for the VC), non-academic middle managers (many in PR) were hired by the bucketful and academic staff were told to limit photocopying, ration A4 paper and assume more administrative duties previously done by secretaries. Besides turning Ph.D.’s into clerical workers, among other things this move to “corporatise” academia along profit-oriented lines prompted PR flak-inspired suggestions in my former department that the Introduction to International Relations course for first year students be re-named “War and Peace” and that my course on Revolutions be renamed to have “9/11” in the title.”

    Anyone who thinks woke and right wing ideology are the paths to equality, think again!

  9. And none of them seem to care about the rich/poor divide widening, they’re on the winning side so what do they care.
    Vote in a left wing party seems pretty meaningless these days, that is if they really are a left wing party because they sure dont act like it.

  10. Have you all read the Spirit Level then? John is right – the bigger the inequality gap the bigger the social problems. Kids going to school with sufficient food in their bellies, without shoes, without heating at home etc. What do you expect the outcome for that kid will be. We are disgraceful as a nation to allow this to continue. The Spirit Level points out that the smaller the gap in inequality the few social problems – and what is more society is better for everyone, the rich and the poor.

  11. exam entry only grammar schools based on achivement not entry by middle class parents relocating and well funded technical schools…better to be the best chippy in town rather than the worst ‘artist’ more lucrative too.

    • Agreed Yuri. But sadly, some idiots will claim that what you’re proposing is “elitist” and non-inclusive.

  12. Also note the educational scores seem higher in countries that have lower populations and do not allow low skill immigration aka Norway, Finland, Sweden, Japan to lower wages.

    The highly educated countries also have a lower tolerance to crime, do not give out their citizenships for money and deport those entering their countries who do not follow the rules or lie on their applications. Pretty sure crime will be lower there too!

    Finland deported unusually many foreigners last year, writes YLE

    The woke and right wingers want to get millions and millions of people into NZ – bums on seats.

    Like natural disasters, more crime and dysfunction in NZ increases company profits and their slave to GDP, metrics that are devoid of the financial and social costs, aka scams everywhere, welfare, justice and health completely overloaded with newcomers who don’t have to contribute taxes. Harming people in NZ is ok and NZ will provide forever for high needs, criminals and their families, relatives, workers, etc. Keep Working NZ!

  13. The only way to decrease wealth inequality is to implement a fairer tax system that will not see customers penalised for purchasing merchandise eg. a reduction in GST, and will see all assets and income as taxable such as salary/wages, shares, trust property, bonds, real estate, etc, not the bulk of taxation revenue being made up of salary/wages and GST. The first step here would be to increase the top rate of Company Taxation.

  14. There are lots of poor societies who truly value education and put their kids first. In places like India and parts of Africa where the people are dirt poor, they know that the best hope for their kids is an education which will open doors. Sure we have high inequality but that should be a driving factor for the poor parents to encourage and support the education of their kids. Start by sending them to school everyday.

  15. Literacy, readin, wrotin and countin is needed baderly in skools John.

    And no more online learning anymore. The Internet for everything has made the last two generations thick as fuck.

  16. Can someone please tell me what is unfair about a flat tax rate (any % number you want to determine) on ALL personal and business income generated in NZ over an exempt initial level of income, number to be determined? No exemptions, no charities. You can either run a business or you can’t but pay the tax. We could save millions on tax admin as well due to the simplicity of the system. Also land taxes are needed and an overhaul of the welfare system.
    It’s not hard to see what works best internationally. Who has the stones to set NZ up for success???

  17. Also read Posh Boys, that UK seminal book about education inequality. No it’s not only about problematic sexual body parts. Enlarge your education and vocabulary; and it shows how sociopaths are often shaped by schools and particularly boarding ones, and carry on a tradition of so doing down the generations.

  18. Get rid of ridiculous unscientific Matauranga Maori from the science curriculum might help – e.g. Mauri, or spiritual ‘life force’ which is being pushed in to Chemistry, despite being disproved over a hundred years ago.

    • Schools with their culture embedded into their curriculum actually do better than many of the rich schools getting all the resources courtesy of their parents and rich donors nukefacts

  19. Sorry, didn’t bother to read the article when the first graph is merely an indication of lazy research.

    There are 32 years between 1990 and 2022 so what impact would inflation have had on those numbers.

    Let’s look at the number of billionaires, 15 in 1990 and 177 in 2022. Generally, expect things to roughly double every 7 years depending in inflation and other fiscal inputs so 4 1/2 doubles takes 15 to over 340 so we’re actually behind. With normal growth we could expect to see that total wealth rise to over 800 billion so again behind. Can we not agree that most people in the world are better off financially, healthwise etc that they were in 199o it just maybe that some are more better off than others.

    Instead of beo moaing the increase in wealth for some why don’t we concentrate on those that have not done so well and figure out what changes we need to make. To those of you that immediately assume taxing the rich pricks will do the job I suggest you again look at the growth of welfare in NZ and tell me those people are better of now than the equivalents were in 1990? I very much doubt it but fo rme the answer is education or lack of it.

    Wealth creation needs brains and certain abilities. Poor education robs our future generations of those abilities and that is our only real growth industry. More beneficiaries.

  20. I’m a big fan of Piketty’s work but come on John, that graph slope has an r value of 0.45 at a confidence level of 0.04 – i.e. it’s a very weak correlation.

    Better evidence would support your position.

    Talk to teachers and they say that home environment, including poverty is a big issue in achievement, but its not the only one. Meanwhile in NZ we continue to promote a racialised new curriculum with gems like ‘Mauri’, or the Maori version of vitalism – a form of religious spirituality, now being pushed in to the science curriculum but disproved in the west almost 200 years ago, and how being successful in Maths requiring ‘privileging a te-ao Maori world view’.

    Perhaps we need to clean house in the Ministry of Education first and remove this rubbish to prevent brainwashing our kids?

    • Dart throwing chimp beats expert investor advisors every day of the week.
      Our education system turned out far too many “expert investment advisors” for far too long or

  21. Greetings, comrades! Today, we’re going to talk about how AI can improve the New Zealand education system and how these new policies could bring about a Labour Party victory in the 2023 general election.

    It’s no secret that the New Zealand education system faces many challenges, from unequal access to resources to outdated teaching methods. However, advancements in AI offer a promising solution to some of these issues.

    For starters, AI-powered educational tools can personalize learning experiences for each student, taking into account their unique needs and learning styles. This can lead to better academic outcomes and increased engagement among students. Additionally, AI can help teachers to identify areas where students are struggling and offer targeted support and resources.

    Furthermore, AI can help to improve access to education for all students, regardless of their location or socio-economic status. With online learning platforms and AI-powered tutoring systems, students can access high-quality educational content from anywhere in the world.

    Now, you may be wondering, how can these policies lead to a Labour Party victory in 2023? It’s simple: by prioritizing education and investing in AI-powered tools, the Labour Party can demonstrate its commitment to the future of our young people and the prosperity of our nation. Additionally, by focusing on educational equity and access, the Labour Party can appeal to a broad range of voters who care about social justice and equal opportunities for all.

    In conclusion, AI has the potential to revolutionize the New Zealand education system and bring about positive change for students and teachers alike. By embracing these new technologies and investing in educational equity and access, the Labour Party can demonstrate its commitment to a better future for all New Zealanders and earn the support of voters in the upcoming 2023 general election. Let’s work together to build a brighter future for our children and our nation.

  22. Labour not capable of working for a better New Zealand,they have instead spent 6 years dividing New Zealand.

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