National | Education

Labour failing Māori students - Potaka

National says achievement rates and attendance show Labour is failing rangatahi Māori. Photo / Whakaata Māori / File

Labour's track record in education is under fire as National's Māori Development spokesperson, Tama Potaka, accuses the government of failing Māori whānau and communities across New Zealand.

“Only 38 per cent of Māori children attended school regularly in Term 4 of 2022. That is a shocking statistic." Potaka says.

“Only 19 per cent of Māori achieved University Entrance in 2021 and a third left school before they turned 17 years old.  Even worse, a quarter of Māori children are leaving school with less than NCEA Level 1.

He argues the education system should be lifting up rangatahi Māori but too many aren't making it to school to learn the basics of reading, writing and mathematics.

“Since 2017, Labour has spent $5 billion more in education and hired another 1400 bureaucrats, yet Māori attendance, retention, and achievement rates are going backwards."

The government has acknowledged deteriorating graduation rates across all ethnicities, largely attributed to pandemic lockdowns.

Before the pandemic, 80 per cent of students achieved NCEA Level 2 as of January 2020.

However, this figure dropped to 74.9 per cent at the beginning of 2022. The percentage of students achieving University Entrance decreased from 53.4 per cent in 2020 to 50.3 per cent.

The government invested in apprenticeship and trades training programmes as youth unemployment rose during the pandemic.

In the May budget it committed to investing around half a billion dollars over four years to continue its apprenticeship boost scheme, initially launched during the pandemic.

Potaka says in traditional education the government failed to do anything in the budget besides maintaining the status quo.

“Budget 2023 offered little, other than maintaining Māori medium education classrooms and funding Iwi for curriculum development," he says.

"These statistics show our education system is utterly failing Māori students."

National's Tama Potaka is accusing government education policies of failing rangatahi Māori. Photo / Supplied

"There was no clarity around targets and accountability for Māori students, most of whom are in the mainstream state schooling system."

National has been pitching a 'Teaching the Basics Brilliantly' policy, arguing the state of education in New Zealand has 'been in decline for the past 30 years'.

"A recent pilot of NCEA literacy and numeracy standards revealed two-thirds of high school students failed to reach the minimum level the OECD says is necessary for success in further learning, life, and work," the policy says.

The policy claims there is too much flexibility in curriculums across education.

"National will require all primary and intermediate schools to spend an average of an hour a day on reading, an hour a day on writing, and an hour a day on maths," its policy document says,

“Education has the power to change lives so a National government will ensure all children gain the skills and knowledge they need to go on and lead successful lives," Potaka says.

Public Interest Journalism