New Zealand’s educational decline

June 16, 2023 • 9:15 am

I’ve written before about how poorly New Zealand is doing, relative to similar countries, in educating its children, but I didn’t know how poorly until a Kiwi sent me this article from the think tank The New Zealand Initiative.  The author, Roger Partridge, not only gives the depressing data, but also focuses on problem: the government’s “child-centered approach” to teaching.

By the way, I get a lot of these articles from different New Zealand residents, all of whom want me to write about the problems of their country but are too afraid—and rightly so—to give their names. So these are all from anonymous sources.

Click to read:

The data from 2020 (my bolding)

The rise of automation, artificial intelligence and pressures from developing economies are threatening low-skilled and unskilled jobs. Never has the need for school leavers to be well-educated been more important than today.

Yet something is rotten at the core of New Zealand’s education system. A growing proportion of children leave school unable to read an instruction manual or do basic maths. Over the last twenty years, our education system has slipped from being the envy of the world to barely mediocre.

Kiwi students once ranked near the top of international education league tables. In the latest results from the highly rated Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study, Year 5 students placed last among all English-speaking countries and 24th out of all 26 participating OECD countries. Students suffered similar slides in maths and science.

The New Zealand education system is also now one of the most unequal in the world. The gap between the educational “haves” and “have nots” eclipses all our English-speaking OECD peers. All this, despite Government spending per child increasing in real terms by more than 30% since 2001.

Here are data from 2022 given by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution: (my bolding)

Low attendance at school is another sign the country’s education system is slipping with children from lower socio-economic areas the worst affected, the executive director of the New Zealand Initiative says.

The New Zealand Initiative is a think tank which carries out research to help New Zealand plan for the future.

It has commented on new research by the Education Review Office that shows children are missing school more in New Zealand than other English-speaking countries.

The office found four in ten parents were comfortable with their child missing a week or more of school per term and a third of students did not see going to school every day as that important…

The education system had been declining for 25 years and data backed up his view, such as the Pisa study carried out by the OECD. As an example, in maths the knowledge of a 15-year-old New Zealand student equated to a student aged 13 and a half 20 years ago.

. . . . In the past 12-18 years, New Zealand’s scores had declined by 23 points for reading, 22 points for science and 29 points for maths. The OECD estimated that 30 points was equivalent to one-year of learning.

Here are the 2019 attendance data from that link above, showing the proportion of students in different Anglophone countries that attend school regularly (regular attendance “is defined as attending more than 90 percent of the time). New Zealand’s 2021 figure went up just 2%—to 60%.

Now what’s the reason for such a decline in both educational attainment and attendance? (Surely they are connected!) While a University of Auckland analysis of the slip in literacy produces only a bunch of waffling, including obsession with the Internet (something that of course also dogs competing countries), Partridge blames New Zealand’s philosophy of education (my bolding):

In her new book, my New Zealand Initiative colleague Briar Lipson exposes how pseudo-scientific dogmas have enveloped our education system. The book New Zealand’s education delusion: How bad ideas ruined a once world-leading school system is a startling dissection of the perils of the so-called child-centred approach forced onto schools by official curriculum and assessment policy.

Gone are the days when teachers followed a national, knowledge-based curriculum, ensuring all children are exposed to the same knowledge in core academic subjects like English, maths, science and social studies. Instead, the much-vaunted New Zealand Curriculum is a scant 67 pages long. The entire curriculum for social science (including history, social studies, geography, economics and politics) for Years 1-13 fits on a single A4 page.

How much children learn about the world around them is left to the discretion of the individual school, teacher and, increasingly, child. Instead of knowledge, children are to develop “competencies” like problem-solving and critical thinking, commonly described as “21st century skills.” (Goodness knows how any leader managed when they were educated in the 20th century.)

Some schools have continued with a more traditional, knowledge rich curriculum. This is especially true of schools that have opted out of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) in favour of international examination systems like Cambridge or International Baccalaureate. But in state schools, New Zealand Curriculum’s extreme child-centred approach prevails.

The problems with a child-centred approach are obvious. Or they are to almost everyone except those responsible for the education system. If the content of classroom study must “relate to the child,” students may learn little about the world outside their family or surroundings. This risk will be greatest for children whose home life involves neither books nor quality time engaging with adult family members.

Partridge also notes that the educational deficit is, as expected, larger in “vulnerable” communities. I’m not sure if this is a euphemism for communities comprising more indigenous (Māori) inhabitants, but statistics do show that the child poverty level is palpably higher in Māori children than the average child in New Zealand (and that of course means that the disparity between Māori and European descendants is even higher). Partridge continues:

In New Zealand’s Education Delusion, Lipson argues that the solution to these education woes is to strengthen the role of knowledge in the New Zealand Curriculum.

Drawing on both empirical research and cognitive science, Lipson shows that the New Zealand Curriculum’s approach has things backwards. Knowledge is a pre-requisite for all competencies, from reading comprehension to creativity and problem-solving (try fixing an engine without knowing how it works). Lipson’s research also demonstrates that direct instruction by teachers is the best route to gain that knowledge.

Taking on the education establishment is not for the faint-hearted. The Ministry of Education, the New Zealand Council for Education Research and the teachers’ unions are well-organised. They (mostly) sing from the same song sheet and defend their beliefs with a religious fervour. And were it not for international data, it would be almost impossible even to identify New Zealand’s downward trajectory and grave inequities.

That song sheet, by the way, includes the famous tune, “All Ways of Knowing Are the Sa,me/The Lord God Made Them All.”

I’m not going to weigh in on how to fix this problem: it’s enough to recognize that it exists and it is severe. What I will say is that the government of one of my favorite countries is doing precious little to fix it; in fact, it’s exacerbating it in two  ways.

First, if a “child-centered” curriculum involves enhancing children’s local knowledge at the expense of general or worldwide knowledge, it’s parochial.  And surely giving indigenous “ways of knowing” (Mātauranga Māori or MM) equal billing with the “ways of knowing” taught in comparable OECD countries will not help literacy, science, or math—the three areas in which NZ is especially behind. By making itself more parochial, and sacralizing the indigenous people, the NZ government and educational establishment will only guarantee that they continue to drop to the bottom.

Further, the constant sacralizing of the indigenous language won’t help with literacy either, particularly compared to other Anglophone nations.It’s nice that Crown people can speak some Māori words, but local language is dominating to the point where foreigners can’t read a lot of stuff supposedly written in English.

Second, by chilling speech around these issues (as I said, most Kiwis who write me don’t want their names used), the government can go ahead and do what it wants without getting any pushback. What I predict will happen is that well-off Kiwis will increasingly put their children in private and independent schools having more rigorous curricula. That will, of course, only enhance the disparities in education between rich and poor, and make state-run schools much worse than private ones. It will also enhance general inequality.

Education, along with many other aspects of NZ’s national welfare, are being held hostage by fealty to beliefs and demands of the Māori , people who most need the benefit of better education. But nobody dare mention the likely effects of indigenizing or “decolonizing” national education.

I see no way to stop this, particularly because those in higher education and the government must hold to their virtue by adhering to the ambiguous 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the basis for claims that everything Māori, including science, must get attention and money equal to those given matters of the “crown”, as Europeans are called. It’s sad to watch the self-destruction of this country, but the greatest dissolution is down the road, when undereducated Kiwi children grow up and run the country.

29 thoughts on “New Zealand’s educational decline

  1. Is the decline in educational attainment really a surprise? In the sciences, surely not. New Zealanders may need to suffer an existential crisis—a crisis where their very survival depends on actual science—before wising up and turning this around.

  2. When we visited New Zealand for a month in 2016, a government social policy report was much in the news. It showed the continuing dismal achievement of Maori students—named as such in the report and by news media, not elided as “low-income”—that contained much the same information as in this story. The 2016 report was mostly about Maori achievement generally: employment, health and social problems, the usual, much of which was laid at the feet of educational performance. The report showed how an earlier big push to help Maori improve in these domains had largely failed. Neither the government, the news media, or interviewed Maori spokespeople complained about systemic racism.

    With the current report, not much seems to have changed since 2016 except the government is more squeamish now about using “failure” and “Maori” in the same sentence, leaving us racists to draw our own conclusions.

    If you assume—bad me for even suggesting it—that NZ’s usually low rate of school attendance at 58% is largely driven by Maori truancy, it means that Maori children for all intents and purposes don’t attend school at all. This is very discouraging for such a large minority.

    1. The decline in reading and other measures could be caused by increased poverty and economic inequality or by changes in education policy & curriculum. Are there any good ways to distinguish those effects from each other? Sincere question IDK the answer. Seems it must be possible, the two causal changes are mostly unrelated to each other (inequality increased independently of erosion of educational policy).

      1. In the 2016 report, Maori weren’t becoming more poor absolutely. They just hadn’t closed the gap very much. As NZ got wealthier, they didn’t. The income gaps refer only to declared income, btw. New Zealand has 30,000 motorcycle gang members (including affiliates and hangers-on) who are largely Maori and who outnumber the army. They fight for control of a lucrative and violent drug and gun trade. It is unknown how much of this income filters down to buy children’s books. The Economist reports periodically about this.

  3. For those interested in the subject of this post, I recommend:

    E.D. Hirsch, Jr.: Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories. Harvard Education Press, 2016
    freely accessible copy here (becoming a member of the Internet Archive library is free and easy):

    Hirsch’s theses:

    3 failed educational theories (page 12):
    1. natural development (developmental appropriateness): Early education should be appropriate to the child’s age and nature, as part of a natural developmental process
    2. individuality (child-centeredness): Early education should be individualized as a far as possible – to follow the learning styles and interests of each developing student.
    3. critical thinking (skill-centrism): The unifying aim of education is to develop critical thinking and other general skills.

    What Hirsch advocates (page 12):
    1. Early education should be chiefly communal – focused on gaining proficiency in the language and the conventions of the public sphere.
    2. Every child in each locality should study basically the same curriculum.
    3. The unifying aim of early schooling is autonomy and equality of opportunity: to impart to every child the enabling knowledge that is possessed by the most successful adults in the wider society.

    Jerry quotes Partridge to this effect:

    Lipson’s research also demonstrates that direct instruction by teachers is the best route to gain that knowledge.

    This reminded me of a chapter in a book by Yale University scholar Ian Ayres:
    Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way To Be Smart. New York, Bantam, 2007 (2008 paperback edition has a new afterword)
    Ch.7 Are we having fun yet? (on the method of direct instruction, DI)

    Teachers don’t like DI (because it takes away their autonomy). Education schools oppose it because, “Ignoring the data, they argue that DI doesn’t teach high-order thinking, thwarts creativity, and is not consistent with developmental practices.” (page 164)
    “For many in the education establishment, [educational] philosophy trumps [educational] results.”(165)

    1. To piggyback on your trenchant comment, Peter, there are two books I believe every educator needs to read. One is the Hirsch book you cite.

      The other is another University of Virginia professor’s book: “Why Don’t Students Like School?” by Daniel Willingham.

      The answer to the title’s question is, basically, because our brains evolved to use as little energy as possible, so humans would rather fall back on cognitive rules-of-thumb.

      One line from Willingham’s book that has stuck with me and changed the way I approached “critical thinking skills” as a teacher: “What’s stored in our long-term memory is not what we think about, it’s what we think with.”

  4. The child-centred approach places children at the centre of decisions about both what they learn and how they learn it. Subject matter should “relate to the child” and teachers are encouraged to let children lead their learning.

    I remember when this method of learning was becoming popular among US home schoolers in the 80’s and 90’s. Back then I read more than a few glowing articles extolling the benefits of leaving the coercive, cookie-cutter culture of mainstream schooling in order to exchange conformity for creativity and really, really tailor education to the individual precious child. Let them choose to study what interests them!

    Anecdotes about kids getting up early to work on their diorama of the Greek Empire before they replicated some 18th century experiments in chemistry would be balanced by homespun stories of how some other kids were learning biology by raising chickens and learning math by baking cakes. The unrelenting themes were how motivated and advanced they were compared to the bored, backward kids in the local public school — and how close and loving the families had become. I’m pretty sure this child-centered theme must have trickled out to some of the schools, which no doubt contained children of parents who were nowhere near as motivated and advanced.

    I suspect that even when New Zealand was doing well educationally there were demographics (including Māori) which lagged behind and contained a lot of truants. What better way to lure kids to school than by telling them they can virtually pick their own curriculum, and work at their own pace? Once the teachers and administrators are gung-ho (and probably seeing or imagining improvement in a few instances) the approach is entrenched. Could be; don’t know.

  5. Schools of Ed are, by definition, concerned with pedagogy rather than subject content—and so have a culture in which the latter is subordinated to the former. The “child-centered” curriculum sounds like a veritable embodiment of this outlook. Schools of Ed are also breeding grounds of poorly evidenced trends in teaching—such as the mostly obsolete “whole language” fad in reading instruction, which did so much to spread semi-literacy in the US. “Child-centered” education has evidently been serving a similar function for NZ in regard to knowledge in every category.

    Bad ideas come and go almost randomly in the educracy, and in the US that population is too large for any one bad idea to dominate it entirely. But in NZ’s much smaller educrat population, “child-centered” education may have drifted to fixation, and it is any case a large part of what might be called the meme load. With genes, it seems that moderately deleterious mutations contribute the most to genetic load and extinction in small populations. So perhaps the meme load in NZ’s educational system will help to push things like literacy, science, and math to extinction there.

  6. For the comedic entertainment of non-Keyaurastan New Zealand readers, I present two websites listing ‘best secondary schools’.
    Scrutiny of these websites gives an idea of the local educational landscape.
    The comedic one is this :
    The other one is
    ‘Metro magazine’ is a glossy Auckland-centred monthly. As is the case with most such periodicals, the readership tends to have more disposable income, and therefore skews politically slightly right-of-centre, whereas the journalists have always veered the opposite direction, promulgating ‘social vision’. Its special issue on best Auckland schools is its perennial best seller for the past two decades.
    Crimson education is a for-profit education company, whose best schools ranking is more niche — placement to overseas elite universities. Its ranking system only started about 3 years ago. Rumours were that it saw an opening for its own list when the Metro Magazine ranking elicited some discontent [ not least amongst Asian parents ], when the Metro editorial went down the ‘let’s Maorify our magazine without pissing off too many of our richer White racist readership who actually buy our product’ route.

    Non- Keyaurastan New Zealand readers need to know that our culture REVERES PIES. We like to stuff our faces with pies, and stuff what passes for intellect with pie charts. You’re not a true Kiwi if thou are not impressed by Pie Charts. Metro magazine’s schools list has quasi Pie Charts, which I hope will amuse readers of this blog with their rotary presentation of numbers that allegedly measure aptitude in something.
    Chuckle over Metro’s 10 dimensions of subject matter, to show how the chatterati allocate differential loading to academic subjects. Back in my reputedly racist days at Otago Boys High School, I did English lit, Biology, Physics, Maths, Chemistry. Metro Magazine’s latest iteration downgrades English/Eng lit to less than one full Pie Chart, places all the sciences into one Pie Chart. Maori, which was introduced as a standalone Pie Chart with great fanfare some years ago, has divided like an amoeba into Double Pies. Who knows what Field Maori is, except it is important to Metro’s ‘anti-racist’ writers. Note that the presence of Double Maori Pies means that the ‘anti-racist’ Metro editorial can award praise to a number of schools that may have not fared as well in ‘traditional rankings’.
    At this point, Crimson consulting came into the Kumbaya space with their ranking. Now, remember those ‘find the critter in the picture’ quizzes? Ask your Keyaurastan New Zealand friends to ‘find the maori words’ in the Crimson website — they may be distraught when they can’t find any, unlike the ‘find the critter in the picture’ quizzes that always have a solution. Readers may note Asian faces galore in the Crimson website, since they are a large market. Now entertain yourselves by noting the ratio of Asian to Maori/Pacific faces in the Metro website, whilst knowing that Auckland’s 2018 population was 28% Asian, 16% Pacific, and only 11% Maori.
    Laugh over the pretensions of Keyaurastan New Zealand society, with the ritual bow to the ‘value of the arts’, given One Pie Chart, versus Double Maori. Oh, and as Auckland was 44% Asian or Pacific Island in 2018, are there any Pie Charts for Asian or Pacific culture? Of course not! Metro mag values Double Maori Pies, even though the nation’s PISA scores sink! Crimson Consulting laughs all the way to the bank.

    1. Could you please write shorter comments. This one is so long, and the contents so strange, that I really can’t make out what you’re trying to say. Please try writing more succinctly and making your main points clear.


  7. My cynical side almost says just let us crumble. On top of all this many of the best
    and brightest are going overseas for better pay and probably respect.

    A bit off but all of this may explain why many of my co-workers often don’t show up!

  8. It appears that educational/intellectual decline has been continuing for decades in New Zealand, with whakapapa and related trends joining the process only recently, Could it have started as long ago as the late 1980s? If so, maybe this bit from Wiki’s biography of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin provides a clue.
    “Multiple reports have suggested Putin was sent by the KGB to New Zealand, corroborated through New Zealand eyewitness accounts and government records. This has never been confirmed by Russian security services. Former Waitākere City mayor Bob Harvey and former Prime Minister David Lange alleged that Putin served in Wellington and Auckland.[48] He allegedly worked for some time undercover as a Bata shoe salesman in central Wellington.[48][49][50].”

  9. “. . . [Matters] of ‘the crown’, as Europeans are called . . .”

    To my understanding “The Crown” refers to the New Zealand state (just as the Canadian Crown is the Canadian state.). It is equivalent to “The Prople” in republics, where state power flows from and officials act in the name of. It does not refer to any specific ethnic group such as those of European ancestry. This would leave out people of Asian ancestry, for one thing, and it would imply that Maori are not subject to the laws of the Crown, which is incorrect. In the Treaty of Waitangi between His Majesty and the Maori chiefs of North Island, they agreed to become British subjects under the Crown. When Maori (or any other group) are in discussions with “The Crown” about anything today, it just means they are in discussions with the NZ government which represents all NZers, just as a civil service union or a group of property owners could be. They are not in nation-to-nation discussions with a foreign (European-only) entity called “The Crown”.

    If NZ evolves to become a biracial state, Maori in one polity and everyone else in another, The Crown might come to have some other meaning but for now,the NZ Crown exerts lawful authority over everyone, Maori and non-Maori alike.

    The American construct would be if some foreign nation agreed to become a territory of the United States (and you wanted it to), it’s residents would agree to become American citizens in return for being subject to the laws of the federal government in Washington that acts in the interests of all the people of the U.S., whether or not this entirely suited the residents of the new territory in every case. They can’t simultaneously be U.S. citizens but not respect U.S. sovereignty over them. The Maori in NZ and indigenous people everywhere are in the same position.

  10. I don’t know why people writing to our host are not imputing to this conversation to help get a better picture of the situation.
    The Crown as Leslie says are basically the NZ Government but the Treaty was signed by Maoridom as a direct agreement with the British Monarchy. Remembering the governor general was the BM representative and the monarchy was their Chief. People aren’t getting the tribalism going on here, we may be in the 21st century but this is dealing with a staunch and very proud group, with a rich oratory tradition and fiercely parochial. They don’t want to be walked all over (again) like the American Governments of the day did to their First Nation peoples after signing “Treaties”. I liken the Treaty to the Declaration of Independence having the same effect centuries later, the second amendment in particular, how is that helping to civilize behaviour. Trump and his headless religious minions total disregard for the rule of law, his sanctimonious lying to promote Himself. Most politicians lie and bend the truth, make false promises and I conceed that maybe his way is more “honest”. I digress.
    I always made a distinction of Maori living in villages not unlike the earlier peoples of Europe, UK, how they forged their civilizing periods, whereas the Australian Aboriginal communities were in a hunter gatherer system and virtually yanked out of a ‘stoneage’ over the last 250 odd years. They were ill equiped to face the juggernault centuries in the making, organised and out competed by their technologies.
    I’m in St Albans in the UK at the moment and the Roman’s who settled here had underfloor heating some 1900 centuries ago, sewage systems and fine tools, nails, glass water pitchers even.
    This is the education that needs to be told. Knowedge and error correction. But my point here is that we are missing it. To me not enough of the people who could add their weight to the issues, the missing points, are choosing to stay out of it, they are better informed and positioned than lay people like me.

    1. A treaty is just an instrument for the settlement of differences between nations either to end a conflict (as with the Treaty of Versailles) or to avoid it in the first place, such as the many treaties between allied nations today. Treaties aren’t sacred covenants. Treaties with indigenous people are referred to in our Constitution but not their explicit texts. Waitangi is not, to my understanding, part of NZ’s Constitution. If a treaty is no longer recognized as having sufficiently clear language that both signatories agree what it means, it may be time to declare the treaty null and void. (There is considerable minority support in NZ for doing just that.). Certainly indigenous people in some countries have already done this to the extent that they no longer consider themselves loyal subjects of His Majesty, as all citizens must, and argue that they are somehow sovereign, free to break Canadian law with impunity, speaking only of my own country. They claim rights over the use of “their” land that private Canadian landowners don’t enjoy over ours, various forms of Crown usurpation being something that Canadian landowners just have to live with as the cost of having a government.

      I submit this is what happened when Maori (and Indians in Canada and the United States) learned English and were able to read the English texts of the treaties their ancestors had signed. (Might have been better for us, then, not to have taught them English at all.)

      It is incorrect to argue that Maori in 1840 were determined not to be “walked over” as the Americans had allegedly done to Indians. Maori in 1840 had little to no knowledge of the outside world, of even the existence of America, beyond what English missionaries and naval officers told them, plus gossip from passing whaling ships. What I think happened was that both Maori and Canadian Indigenous leaders allowed themselves to think they were giving up less than the British and Canadians knew they were getting. Both land ownership and governance (i.e., sovereign power) are European concepts that had no equivalent in other cultures. Small wonder that attempts to translate them later led to bad feeling that the weaker side had got swindled…particularly when natives found a fence and armed settlers barring them from wandering around lands that they had freely traveled over for centuries and had taken reassurance that they would be able to continue to do so. Not.

      The question today is should “pride” in one’s heritage (which one can take no credit for) trump educational and economic advancement, which one can.

      1. My reference to being walked over was to how modern Maori are using their current knowledge and applying it in relationship to the crown.
        I just watched a Maori MP run out a list of insults by the Crown he didn’t mention Maori specifically but to how damaging it has been for ‘indigenous nations’.
        He could expand that to the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch crowns to this indigenous uprising.
        BtW as an aside, I was once told when visiting Wiamate North Mission House where Darwin took tea, that I could possibly have some of American first Nation blood line. Something to do with my nose…
        The whaling ships that came to Russell in the Bay of Islanďs to provision apparently had sailors of American FN origin. Russell was notorious, read what Charles Darwin had to say about it.
        I have two British captains in my heritage (my fathers line) so interactions with the indigenous weren’t all verbal and ‘treaties’. To my point, some information of settlers and bad American government behaviour may have come this far south.
        Throw in a bottle of rum and things might have gotten highly animated.

  11. A child-centred approach does not explain why NZ is falling behind its peers. Child-centred approaches have been common in education in Anglophone countries for decades now. So if both the UK and NZ, for example, are using child-centred approaches then NZ should not be doing worse because of that approach. Further, the description of hte child-centred approach given is rather a caricature. It does not mean that knowledge is not taught. Surely also it should be obvious that it is skills like problem-solving, being able to give a presentation etc are what is important in education, not specific facts. Child-centred means that you start from where the child is and teach to that, as otherwise nothing taught will be successful. It does not mean that there should not be a national curriculum. The lack of a national curriculum with precise goals sounds much more likely to be the source of NZ’s problems, but a national curriculum is quite compatible with being child-centred as a teaching approach, as in England.

  12. Thinking of NZ “child-centered” approach in education, and of the US “gender affirmation care” done because children supposedly want it very badly, it seems to me that when adults wish to follow some appalling policy, they put children in the driver seat and use them as an excuse.

  13. Two titles I recently found could be worth reading on this by Paulo Freire :

    The Politics of Education (1970)
    Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1985)

    I don’t have a quote handy. Maybe next time. But this pedagogy is well worth knowing about – and I have no idea if it bears on New Zealand.

    1. Oh no – proofreading : “on this” means pedagogy, but not New Zealand. I should have deleted that. Sorry.

    2. 1. The dates are flip-flopped. So, Pedagogy is 1970, Politics 1985.

      2. I pick a quote from Politics, p. 48-49, for an idea of the pedagogy:

      “In the light of such a concept —unfortunately, all too widespread — literacy programs can never be efforts toward freedom; they will never question the very reality that deprives men of the right to speak up — not only illiterates but all those who are treated as objects in a dependent relationship. These men, illiterate or not, are in fact not marginal. What we said before bears repeating: They are not “beings outside of”; they are “beings for another.” Therefore the solution to their problem is to [p.49] become, not “beings inside of,” but men freeing themselves; for, in reality, they are not marginal to the structure, but oppressed men within it. Alienated men, they cannot overcome their dependency by “incorporation” into the very structure responsible for their dependency. There is no other road to humanization — theirs as well as everyone else’s — other than authentic transformation of the dehumanizing structure.”

      “viewing illiterates as men oppressed within the system, the literacy process, as cultural action for freedom, is an act of knowing in which the learner assumes the role of knowing subject in dialogue with the educator. For this very reason, it is a courageous endeavor to demythologize reality, a process through which men who had previously been submerged in reality begin to emerge in order to reinsert themselves into it with critical awareness.”

      Apologies for length. Freire’s meaning is important to preserve, as it seems to bear on developments in New Zealand – or if not, then that would be important to know as well.

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