In the spirit of Christmas the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association / Te Wehengarua (PPTA) is continuing its commitment to help John Key with his holiday reading and has carefully selected themes he can use to reflect on the past year and the year to come.
PPTA says its latest book to the prime minister, 'To the Is-land' by Janet Frame, is a real example of education operating as a public good. Janet Frame was fortunate to be attending secondary school at a time when the government expanded its investment in public education.
Dear Prime Minister - Education is a public good; the state is responsible for an adequately funded, high-quality, comprehensive education system available equally to all
20 December 2011
Dear Prime Minister
Today's book is by Janet Frame, perhaps New Zealand's most famous writer. It is the first book of her autobiography, 'To the Is-land'.
There are many accounts in literature of individuals who might have gone on to become great writers and poets but were denied that opportunity by a lack of formal education. Janet Frame was fortunate to begin her secondary education in 1934 at a time of educational enlightenment when the government was reversing the retrenchment of the previous years and investing heavily in education.
Secondary schooling was made compulsory, the fees that kept poor students out of secondary schools were eliminated and the staffing cuts that would have made it difficult for schools like Waitaki Girls to recruit teaching staff were removed. Over the next few years, expanded government investment in education through the public system ensured that comprehensive secondary was no longer the preserve of the wealthy elite but was available to all New Zealanders. Even then, Frame talks in the book about a number of friends who had to leave school to go out to work to support their families.
This book is a reminder of our enlightened forebears for whom education was not only a right but a public good. Every New Zealander was guaranteed a world-class education at their local school, followed by low cost tertiary education or the opportunity to take up an apprenticeship nationally. Rather than being left to the whims of employers, apprenticeships were managed nationally and supported by a web of training through night classes and polytechnics.