Hekia Parata, the Minister of Education, will not be a candidate at next year’s election. She said she will continue as Minister of Education in the meantime.
Her decision must have been a shock for the Prime Minister. She was one of his senior ministers and is only 57. She said she has found the job ‘challenging but rewarding’. Like many other Education Ministers in the past, she has been unpopular with teacher unions. When she first became the Minister for Education, she tried to increase class sizes but this was unpopular with parents also so it did not happen.
After the Christchurch earthquakes, she had a very difficult job of closing or merging 31 schools. This became necessary as families moved out of areas where their homes had been damaged. Some families were very angry about these changes.
She has talked of new ways to fund schools and this has worried teachers. They were worried that inexperienced teachers would get jobs because they could be paid less than experienced teachers. Ms Parata also talked of more funding for schools where students achieved better results but teachers know that students in poor areas do not usually do so well. These are the schools which need more funding, not less.
She is Maori and is concerned about poor education achievement of Maori and Pacific Island students. On international test results in reading, Science and Maths, (PISA tests) New Zealand scored 7th; however, Pakeha students were 2nd, Maori were 34th and Pasifika students 44th. This information is not new but no Minister of Education has had much success in improving achievement for those at the bottom.
Listen to December 20 2010 to hear more about PISA tests and New Zealand’s results.
• candidate (n) – someone stand for Parliament, wants to be a Member of Parliament
• in the meantime (phrase) – from now until some time in the future
• challenging (adj) – many difficulties she had to face
• rewarding (adj) – positive results which make her feel good
• merge (v) – to put two schools together
• fund (v, n) – provide money
• inexperienced (adj) – new teachers
• achievement (n) – a good result