Saturday, August 28, 2010

Imagination is more important than knowledge...

In The Press today (28-8-2010) “Kindergarten teachers say "brutal funding cuts" are threatening to squash their historic service to 26,000 Kiwi families.”

And so the war begins with the first shots fired in what appears to be a battle more about ideology than budgets – no matter how much Tolley harps on about 'unsustainable costs'.
The true agenda straight from the horses mouth: "You have a philosophical point of view and I respect that. But I can't afford to pay for it.”

Indeed. Of all the shit this government throws cash at – namely the rich – investment in early childhood education, which is estimated earns this country $13 for every $1 spent, no longer seems to be a priority. Slicing $419M from the budgets of fully qualified centres means writing off potential gains of $5.5 BILLION - as well as downstream reductions in crime, social welfare, and health costs.

Duh. And that's about it really.

Costs will be passed onto parents, many of whom will  be forced to remove their children from centres. 'Oh please don't do that', says Tolley, use unqualified staff instead. Hmmmm bums on seats and fuck quality? Yep.

Kindergartens represent 15 percent of early childhood education services and cater for around 22 percent of children enrolled in a service - forty percent of four year olds attend a kindergarten. But enrolments are dropping – from around 45,000 for the several years to just below 40,000 for 2010.

Kindergartens have moved philosophically since government funding has turned ECE into a gold-rush for investors. They had to. There are now 30 different models of kindergarten with the traditional two session day all but history. This flexibility is good, it moves Kindergarten out of its middle-class enclave with the privileged mums at home, to better reflecting the working reality of most young families.

Kindergartens are sticking to their guns with qualified staff providing quality education and the waiting lists to enrol (16,000) suggest Kiwi's remain supportive. So what's the next move? Will NZEI grow some balls?

Unfortunately, in the market place of education, Kindergartens are now a minority. Kindergartens provide a free service, are non-profit, operate with 100 per cent qualified staff, are philosophically/politically 'left-wing' and quite rightly consider children to be far more important than profit margins. That's just not on eh?

The neoliberal 'New Zealand Experiment' of the 1980's turned education into a commodity for consumption with 'free-choice' as the carrot: you get what you pay for. Education is now closely tied to the nations economic success (rather than your fluffy idea of success) and the focus is on quality outputs (ie, economic potential) rather than quality inputs like qualified teachers, resources, and a step-up for marginalised groups. This is the battlefield.

Early childhood education is increasingly under 'downward pressure' to better prepare our children to fit more easily into an education system rigidly defined and controlled by this political agenda.

Private ECE providers are to a degree already toeing the line with curriculum content narrowing to met skill-based objectives – they are essentially 'pre-schools'. Kindergarten's are no educational utopia, but essentially they say 'fuck that', let the kids play, let them live in the here-and-now exploring and learning in whatever direction their interests take them. This is why they are under threat, why parents are being forced away from supporting them. It a cynical, nasty move from Government to destroy the last bastion of learner-controlled education.

Sarah Farquhar of the Early Childhood Council who represent the capitalist wing of ECE has called for a review of Te Whāriki, saying it lacks concrete learning outcomes. It doesn't. What she means is that it's not required that children must count or read to a measurable standard – like it matters or something.

Fucking rich white people and their idea of normalcy.

Funding cuts:
·    $295M from abolishing the two highest funding bands for centres, creating a new 80%+ band (funded at a lower level than the previous equivalent) and capping the number of centres that can access this new funding band.
·    $275M from not going ahead with previously Budgeted ratio improvements (reducing the number of children per teacher for some age groups), which were supposed to take effect in July 2009.
·    $43M from reducing support for people to train as early childhood teachers, recruit new teachers, or return to the profession
·    $10M from ending all Ministry-supported professional development in early childhood education.
Total cuts in 2009 & 2010 budgets:  $623M

Funding increases:
·    $92M for targeted initiatives to increase participation, particularly for Maori, Pasifika and low-income families, over the next four years.
·    $20M for including 5 year olds, kohanga reo and playcentres in the 20 Hours funding scheme, which had previously only applied to 3 and 4 year olds and teacher-led services (kohanga reo are sometimes, and playcentres are always parent-led) – to come into effect July 1st 2010, the $70M is spending in 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13.
·    $47M for an inflation-level 2.4% increase to the non-staffing component in the funding rates for many of the funding categories.
·    $35M to cover some services being able to access higher funding because primary-trained teachers will count towards accessing higher funding bans, again over the next four years.  This is a bit of a dubious increase to claim, because many of these services might have been able to access the higher funding bans without the change to include primary-trained teachers, by using early childhood-trained teachers as more people completed their training.
·    $10M in costs for implementing the cuts to funding rates listed above.

Total increases in 2009 & 2010 budgets:  $204M

Thus in the term of this National-led Government they have cut $419M out of early childhood education in just their first two years in power.

Funding statistics courtesy of – thank you :)

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