By Alwyn Poole

More hard evidence that we are failing our youth – very badly indeed.

With absolutely no fanfare the Ministry of Education has recently released the statistics for 2018 school leavers who have attained our highest school qualification – University Entrance. This is the best check of the effectiveness and fairness (equity) of our 13 year Primary-Secondary system.

University Entrance is the game-changer for young people through providing access to tertiary study and massively increasing the range of choices they have from just having Level 3 NCEA (or lower). Current studies also show that those with a complete tertiary qualification can expect to earn $1.4 million dollars more over an earning lifetime than those without that level of qualification (with exceptions both ways of course).

Why the lack of fanfare? Easy! Because the results show that in terms of effectiveness and equity our system is a DISASTER. Bad and getting worse.

In 2018

For students from Asian families, 65.4% left school with UE (67.4 in 2017)

For students from European families 43.9% left school with UE (44.7 in 2017)

For students from Pasifika families, 21.9% left school with UE (22.4 in 2017)

For students from Maori families, 18.6% left school with UE (18.6 in 2017)

Fees free means almost zero to our Maori and Pasifika students/families as so few get a ticket to ride the tertiary bus.

While we also wonder why a higher proportion of young NZ men seem pathless than young women – Female school leavers achieved UE at 45.7% in 2018 and Males at 33.3%.

The Ministry’s only “explanation” for the worsening stats (and they say nothing about the gaps), is that maybe a few students are leaving earlier to get a job.

Education is unlike wealth – most people do not correct earlier failings and accumulate more over time. New Zealand’s young people need the whole of our society to be urgent about this. And yet very little, or nothing is being done, and virtually no one has taken notice that we pushed a whole lot more children off the cliff and into adult life with an inadequate education and very few choices for their “future of work” (which the trendies are currently spouting on about).

There needs to be outcry and protest – a plan – and immediate action. Probably too late for the 2019 cohort (especially with the union disruptions during the year). Urgency and change for decile 1 – 3 schools should be a HUGE 2020 priority … but we will probably be waiting for a further working group report during that time, or worse, an election campaign.


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