Just don’t expect that to be reflected in bulletins or newspaper headlines – the party revealed its free tertiary education policy 18 long months ago.

The pledge to give New Zealander’s three years of free post-school education over their lifetime is now such old news that today’s press release on the wider manifesto from Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins didn’t mention it.

Instead, the focus is on newly announced policy to give every school ‘modern’ classrooms by 2030 and pumping an extra $4 billion over four years into education.

Labour has also refreshed policies from the 2014 campaign, such as making sure every child has a mobile digital device for ‘Bring Your Own Device’ learning, paying schools not to charge ‘voluntary’ donations, and increasing funding for early childhood centres.

It’s been so long since Andrew Little used his State of the Nation speech in Auckland’s Albert Park to announce the free tertiary education policy, that it almost feels like it was part of the 2014 manifesto.

It wasn’t, and of all Labour’s education policies has the most appeal – even if it won’t be fully implemented until 2025.

National is yet to release its big education policies, but will scoff at Labour’s modern classroom pledge and produce statistics to show it is already upgrading classrooms. Ditto with early childhood investment.

The free tertiary policy is the real point of difference between National and Labour.

National can attack the affordability of the free tertiary policy, the need for it or what unintended consequences it might create. But there won’t be any effort to convince voters that National is already doing it.

Labour has been at the vanguard of major changes in tertiary funding. It introduced tuition fees in 1989 and interest write-offs for student loans in 2005.

It now wants to eventually give most people three years of free post-school study. It’s surprising that Labour doesn’t remind voters of that promise more often.

Source: NZ Herald


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