The Impact of the “User Pays” Educational system in New Zealand

September 27, 2008

In New Zealand, under the “Tomorrow’s Schools” and “Learning for Life” programs, the free-market model was imposed at every level of education. Elected governing bodies were modelled on private sector boards responsible for fiscal oversight. Principals were turned into CEOs accountable for financial performance and the delivery of measurable educational “outcomes”, which were often decided by Treasury. In the tertiary sector, Labour ceased to fund the full cost of courses, and in 1990, introduced a flat $1,250 tuition fee. Universal student allowances were abolished.

Over the last 15 years, successive governments have cut education funding, forcing individual institutions to make up the shortfall. The burden has increasingly fallen on parents in the form of charges and fundraising, resulting in a widening gulf between “rich” and “poor” schools. In a growing struggle for funds, schools in wealthier areas naturally have far more leverage than those serving working class areas.

Spending on compulsory schooling has fallen as a proportion of the whole, while more money has gone to private providers offering vocational and specialist programs in the post school sector. Since 1987, over 900 private training establishments (PTEs) have been created, with 234 of these currently receiving a total of $264 million in government subsidies. The public education system—at both school and tertiary levels—is increasingly reliant on privately sourced funds. Ministry of Education figures show that locally-raised funds from all sources have steadily increased, as a proportion of the government’s operations funding to schools, to more than 12 percent of the $900 million non-salary component of school budgets.

Schools in working class areas have never been able to raise significant extra funding. Some are insolvent. More than 50 schools since 2005 in the hands of statutory managers. Most of these are in working class neighbourhoods. The managers are moved in to oversee the school’s finances, but effectively take control of the whole range of school activities, including staffing and curriculum decisions.

Schools in the very poorest areas do not even ask for donations as few parents can afford to pay. Some years ago, trouble began after some schools engaged debt collection agencies to demand money from parents. The practice only stopped after the education minister was forced to clarify that “donations” were voluntary and not legally enforceable. That does not prevent schools from requiring a range of payments, including materials fees, sports fees, photocopying costs and the like.

According to a report published in December by the Ministry of Social Development, perversely titled “Opportunity for All New Zealanders”, New Zealand has one of the widest disparities in education achievement of any developed country. It showed that while the upper 17 % of children tested in the international top 10 percent in reading benchmarks, the bottom 16 % did not reach the lower quarter. The range of scores was wider than most other countries tested, including Sweden, England and the US.

Students who make it to university face some of the highest tuition fees in the world. A 2001 study by New York’s Buffalo University, reported recently in the Sunday Star Times, ranks New Zealand fourth in the world for fees at public tertiary institutions. The average costs are higher than at similar public institutions in Australia, the US and the UK. By comparison, many countries, including Germany and Sweden, do not charge fees.

Official figures show that male students take an average of 15 years to pay off their loans and female students take 28 years with obvious personal and economic consequences. Those most affected are from poor families who cannot call on their parents for assistance. From the moment that students enter primary schools to when they finish their education, the “user pays” education system is increasingly stacked in favour of the wealthy.



Australian-style student loan system heralds a private University System and greater Educational disparity between rich and poor

September 26, 2008

In a significant policy change, Mr O’Keeffe told the Irish Times that third-level fees were back on the agenda. The Minister stated that any move in this direction would require Government approval.

The Minister has ordered a 3 % cut in payroll costs and a 50 % cut in promotional activity. UCD President Dr Hugh Brady told the Minister at a meeting on Wednesday the 24th September that cuts in student services and less popular courses will be inevitable. The seven university heads have publicly opposed the return of the old fees system, which was abolished in 1995, as problematic and inequitable.

As an alternative, they are proposing a system where Exchequer support for colleges would be “topped up” by student fees. But the cost of these fees would be lent to students and repaid once they start working. They assert that this would help shift the burden of college fees from the parent to the student who actually benefits from higher education. Read the rest of this entry »

Ireland is now in recession

September 26, 2008

 New figures that confirmed that the Irish economy is in recession. Central Statistics Office (CSO) data now show that the economy contracted by 0.8% in the second quarter of this year compared with a year earlier.

It is the second successive quarter of negative growth. The technical definition of a recession is two or more successive quarters of negative economic growth.

The CSO said that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measure of output fell by 1% in the first six months compared with a year earlier.

Gross National Product, which excludes profits from multinational companies, fell at an annual rate of 2.1% in the second quarter.

A breakdown showed that capital spending in the period was down almost 19% on the same period last year, hit by the slump in house building as well as lower spending on machinery and equipment.

Consumer spending fell by 1.4%, while total industrial production dropped by 1%. Within this, construction was down by more than 12%.


Shell “Armada” arrives on Mayo Beach

September 14, 2008

The largest pipelaying vessel in the world, the 1,300 ft Solitaire has arrived in Broadhaven Bay, in Co. Mayo.

Shell has employed a “small army” of private security men, backed up by gardai, to protect the landfall area.

The Dutch-owned Solitaire can lay between four and seven km of pipeline a day and normally carries a crew of around 400. Over the coming months, it is due to lay the pipe from the landfall site at Gelngar, 83km out to the Corrib Gas field. Shell’s External Affairs Manager John Egan said 22 vessels will be involved in the Corrib project: “You could describe it as the Corrib armada.” Protestors claim Shell is attempting to construct the first 200m of the 9.2km onshore section of the pipeline before An Bord Pleanala makes its decision on the onshore section.


Thursday, July 24th: Over 40 gardaí, stationed in the Shell compound, and 70 Shell specialist security forced the local community from a section of Glengad beach so that Shell could erect 10ft high fencing about 40ft down onto the beach. Using the Public Order Act, Gardai ordered the crowd to leave the area and then forcibly removed some of the protestors from the area. Members of the local community had been gathering from before 4am because they feared that Shell would begin work early as they had on the previous morning when they tore down the cliff-face to create a causeway down to the beach. According to protestors, it was a joint Garda & Shell operation.

Gardai and Shell security formed a cordon around where they were planning to put up the fencing, and then Gardai came in and forcibly removed the protestors who were inside the security bubble. There was little that the group of around 30 protestors could do but watch as the fencing was erected down to the water’s edge. It is presumed that Shell will seek to extend the fencing further once the tide has gone out again. However far it extends, it already cuts the public beach in two, which of course means that users do not have the right of way through the beach.

The legality of the consents are an issue of major concern as it is unclear what permissions Shell have received and for what exact work. Green Party Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has claimed that it was an “oversight” that the latest authorisations for the project were not published. A spokeswoman said that all authorisations and new information relating to the department’s role would be published on the Department’s website.

Shell is now attempting to construct up to the first 200m metres of the onshore section of the pipeline without planning permission. Although the remaining 9.2km of the onshore pipeline is presently before An Bord Pleanala, this first 200m metres is due to be laid before a decision on the rest of the onshore section has been made. The further destruction of this Special Area of Conservation has continued unabated under the eyes of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

16th August 2008The Rossport Solidarity Camp was set up again for the purposes of reorganising Shell to Sea resistance to Shell’s latest plans to construct its offshore section of the pipeline from Glengad out to the Corrib Gas Field. Protests are ongoing, involving both Shell to Sea activists and members of the local community.

29th August: An Irish naval vessel was deployed as protests mounted over the controversial Shell gas pipeline. The Irish Defence Forces said the LE Orla, with 39 crew onboard, was requested by gardaí as back-up at Broadhaven Bay, Co Mayo.

A spokesman for the naval service said he could not recall any of its ships ever being directly involved in an operation against civil demonstrations.

2nd September: Another Irish Naval Service vessel arrived off the Mayo Coast. The Irish Naval Service is composed of seven vessels. The priority which is being given to this operation is an indication its political character.

Tuesday September 9th: The Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven Bay, as the accompanying security operation intensified. Extra Gardaí; including special public order units have arrived. Local schoolteacher Maura Harrington has gone on hunger strike at the gates of the compound. Her demand is that the Solitaire leave the bay or else her hunger strike will continue.

Wednesday September 10th: Pipelaying work is temporarily suspended. According to local newspaper, The Mayo Echo, unnamed Irish Naval sources have stated their concern that a British nuclear submarine is positioned 11 miles off the Mayo coast and is providing direct assistance to the Irish authorities in monitoring communications. So far the Irish Government has refused either to confirm or deny this report. A Royal Navy spokesman, while refusing to confirm or deny the report, stated that if there is a submarine in Irish waters “then it wouldn’t be there without the permission of the Irish authorities.”


Thursday September 18th: Shell announces that the Solitaire pipe laying ship is to depart from Irish territorial waters and go to Sctoland for repair and assessment. 


Friday September 19thMaura Harrington ends her hunger strike.