Although if I were a Kiwi I’d probably be a member of the Labour Party, I have criticized them strongly for their education policy: a policy that has constantly tried to insinuate Māori “ways of knowing” (Mātauranga Māori ) into school science curricula (it’s fine if taught as history or sociology). Labour has also been engaged in a frenetic bout of “decolonization,” trying to get the country to adhere to the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), which has been dubiously interpreted as “Māori get half of everything: jobs, science grants, language in publications, etc.”
This “decolonization”, particularly in schools and colleges, has gone so far that no Kiwi citizen dares oppose it for fear of demonization. Academics, for example, won’t speak up because they’ll be fired. That’s why I get a ton of emails from disaffected New Zealand academics who are afraid to speak up against the insinuation of MM into science curricula, and it’s why I write so much about it. Who else can criticize “decolonization” in NZ without risking their job? (Only retired professor!)
As I’ve also documented, New Zealand’s schools aren’t doing their jobs: they’re slipping in student performance, in student attendance, and in quality when compared to schools in similar countries like Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the U.S. Kiwis are perfectly aware of this and worried about it, but again—they can’t object. (This decline in educational standards and accomplishment can’t be attributed solely to MM, as it’s been going on for several decades.)
But Labour, first under Jacinda Ardern (for whom I had great hopes) and then Chris Hipkins (former Minister of Education), must take the blame for what’s happened in the last six years, which includes a huge push for “decolonization.”
Apparently the public is fed up with Labour, as this report at the AP shows that Labour just lost the election, while the “conservatives” cleaned up big time (see also the report from the BBC and the live coverage at Stuff). The new PM, Christopher Luxon, isn’t really “conservative” in the way that American Republicans are; the NZ party is are closer to American “centrism”—or so I’m told:
From the AP:
Conservative former businessman Christopher Luxon will be New Zealand’s next prime minister after winning a decisive election victory Saturday.
People voted for change after six years of a liberal government led for most of that time by Jacinda Ardern.
The exact makeup of Luxon’s government is still to be determined as ballots continued to be counted.
Luxon arrived to rapturous applause at an event in Auckland. He was joined on stage by his wife, Amanda, and their children, William and Olivia. He said he was humbled by the victory and couldn’t wait to get stuck in to his new job. He thanked people from across the country.
“You have reached for hope and you have voted for change,” he said.
Supporters chanted his campaign slogan which promised to get the country “back on track.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who spent just nine months in the top job after taking over from Ardern in January, told supporters late Saturday he had called Luxon to concede.
Hipkins said it wasn’t the result he wanted.
“But I want you to be proud of what we achieved over the last six years,” he told supporters at an event in Wellington.
Ardern unexpectedly stepped down as prime minister in January, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do the job justice. She won the last election in a landslide, but her popularity waned as people got tired of COVID-19 restrictions and inflation threatened the economy.
Her departure left Hipkins, 45, to take over as leader. He had previously served as education minister and led the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
With most of the vote counted, Luxon’s National Party had about 40% of the vote. Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, Luxon, 53, is expected to form an alliance with the libertarian ACT Party.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party that Hipkins leads was getting only a little over 25% of the vote — about half the proportion it got in the last election under Ardern.
And in a result that would be particularly stinging for Labour should it lose the seat,
A 40% vote for National versus a 25% vote for Labour is a huge difference, especially when compared to Ardern’s landslide. The NZ public clearly heaved out the old party with alacrity. I don’t know about National’s other policies, but it has promised to reform education, cracking down on schools to improve literacy and reforming curricula. Here are National’s six highlights for educational reform:
- Progressively improve the adult-to-child ratio for under two year olds in early childhood education.
- Invest an additional $4.8 billion in school infrastructure, including $2 billion over five years for the Fix New Zealand’s Schools Alliance, and another $2.8 billion over a decade for new classrooms and schools to accommodate growth and reduce the need to impose restrictive zoning requirements.
- Establish a $160 million per year fund to support children with additional learning, behavioural and physical needs – allocated based on school roll and need – so schools can invest in the initiatives they believe are appropriate for their student community.
- Invest $150 million over four years to fund an additional six million hours of teacher aide support in classrooms, equivalent to around 1500 new teacher aides (at 25 hours per week), or an average of 600 hours per school each year.
- Invest $340 million over four years to deliver smaller class sizes by progressively reducing student-to-teacher ratios in primary schools. This will reduce teacher workloads and make sure children get more focused teacher attention in their foundation years.
- Establish at least 25 new partnership schools by 2023, including some focussed on high-priority learners such as Māori and Pasifika; children with additional learning needs; and in specialist education areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
A quality education can make all the difference in the future of a child. National knows how important it is for children to leave school with firm foundations in core areas, but also for parents to feel empowered to make the choices that will best suit their child’s needs.
Now #6 does address indigenous people, but it is true that Māori and Pasifika children do poorly compared to others, like whites or Asians. So I have no objection to giving them special attention, so long as it’s not in the form of a Kiwi-an “affirmative action.” And the reform will concentrate on STEM, the area being most corrupted by decolonization.
But somehow I get the feeling that National is not going to truckle to indigenous demands that their “ways of knowing” be taught as equivalent of modern scientific ways of knowing. We may have a substantial time to find out, too, as there is no fixed term for NZ’s prime minister: they typically leave office when they lose an election or a confidence vote (in Ardern’s case, she simply resigned claiming she was worn out). In the 20th century, Kiwi PMs have stayed for up to 13 years.
The voters have spoken—and loudly. Stay tuned.