There is no other way to say it – the latest release of qualifications statistics for our young people is a disgrace for our nation.

People think of movies such as Schindler’s List or Amistad as great Spielberg productions that highlight man’s (in the inclusive sense) inhumanity against others but fail to see what is before them on a day-to-day basis.

The latest education statistics release in New Zealand shows that for our peak secondary qualification (University Entrance) we are a massive failure. University Entrance is – in modern parlance – the “game breaker”. It is the opportunity for young people to access an education that allows them, on average, to earn more than $1.5million above those without a degree.

So how are our teachers/system doing towards providing that opportunity? Well … even in 2017/18 it turns out that your skin colour matters immensely. If you are a school leaver of an Asian background there is a 67% chance that you will gain entrance into one of our institutions of higher learning. If you are European then you are down to 45% but that is still way ahead of our Pasifika young people who are at 22% and our Māori young people who are at 19%.

This is simply awful. A disaster! But in typical adult fashion the current education “crisis” is about paying people more because there is an apparent teacher shortage. The teacher unions are doing their job. They are seeking the best conditions for their current members. This may well be deserved but it will not solve the teacher shortage which is actually about an extra year of unpaid study – not about the ongoing salary earned.

Prior to simply asking for a pay rise the teacher unions need to come up with detailed ideas about how to improve the outcomes for our students of all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. There is so much excuse-making but the truth is that schools are funded to bring about great outcomes regardless of the home background of the young person. But they simply fail to do it.

Being a “teacher” is one of the greatest professions. It is one of the true Mark Twain – find a career that you love and get someone to pay you for it – type professions. New Zealand education is in a huge crisis, but this is also a great opportunity.

Teachers should not ask for a substantial pay increase until they have earned it historically (for which the statistics contradict their claim) or they put a new plan in place. How will they bring about the great improvement that is so desperately needed? Education Minister Chris Hipkins is talking about “trades” – is that a disguised way of saying that Māori and Pasifika kids are better at digging holes and Asian and European kids are better at surgery and curing cancer?

Late in 2018, it is time for New Zealand to become a world leader in education again. We have a good curriculum and many high-quality people in this sector – but we have lost our way. This is of huge detriment to our young people and we need to think hard!


  1. If Alwyn thinks that the 22% and 19% figures are “simply awful” then he should look at the figures for charter schools. There were 184 School Leavers from charter schools in 2017 but only 33 of them left with UE. That represents only 17.9%.

    Why do people think that charter schools are performing well?

  2. It is not a piece in support – or otherwise – of Charter Schools William. It is about the ineffectiveness of our whole system. If you could detail – as you have obviously researched it – where the Charter Schools leavers are from and the qualifications they had I am more than happy to include it in any comment.

  3. Is it the job of the unions to “fix” the system? Isn’t it their role to advocate for members on pay and conditions which is exactly what they are doing. Our policy makers – politicians – are the ones charged with developing and maintain an education system that will address the imbalances we see at present. With input from those who work in the sector we would hope.

  4. Well said Bill. It is obvious that there are not enough teachers for our children.Alwyn clearly doesn’t accept that teachers need a pay rise to encourage more young New Zealanders into teaching. The profession is not attractive enough for people to train or to remain in teaching as there are huge shortages.


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