New Zealanders would rather money was spent on improving
teaching standards than on reducing class sizes, a
Herald-DigiPoll survey reveals.
Education has become a political battleground before
September's election, with both major parties promising to
spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it.
Asked about their priorities, more than 60 per cent of those
polled said they would spend money on trying to improve
teaching standards rather than cutting class sizes.
Labour has included reducing class sizes in its election
Another of its policies, a promise to pay schools which do
not ask parents for donations, gained support in the poll.
National has pledged $359 million for a scheme that would pay
the best teachers and principals more.
Labour countered by promising to use that money to instead
hire 2000 more teachers and reduce class sizes.
Asked about those policies, 61 per cent of those polled said
the money was better spent on trying to improve teaching
Thirty-five per cent thought it should be used to cut class
Yesterday, Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said he
rejected the premise of the question.
It did not convey that Labour's plan to hire more teachers
would also allow for teacher training, and that its education
policy was strongly focused on teacher quality.
That included establishing an advisory service to provide
mentors and share best practices, and pre-screening entry
into teacher training programmes. "Smaller class sizes do
lead to better teaching. The teacher gets more time with each
student, student behaviour is improved, and studies clearly
show that students in smaller classes spend more time focused
on the task at hand.
"Smaller class sizes also allow the teacher more time to
reflect on and improve their own practice."
Labour's class size policy followed other announcements,
including paying schools which did not ask parents for
donations and subsidised netbooks or laptops for students.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the survey showed
parents recognised the worth in the initiative.
"Parents have great knowledge about what makes a difference
for their kids' learning, and it is about the quality of
learning that happens in their child's classroom."
This month the Post Primary Teachers' Association conducted
its own survey which showed that more than eight in 10 New
Zealanders wanted secondary school classes at 25 or lower.
The union also supports National's Investing in Educational
Success plan, in contrast to the strong opposition from the
NZEI primary teachers' union.
The Herald-DigiPoll survey of 750 voters was taken between
- By Nicholas Jones of the New Zealand Herald