I spent the weekend at the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) Conference in Auckland. This conference had the strongest turn out of people from every level of the public education sector since I have been attending.
There were powerful presentations from people active in early childhood issues, the compulsory sector and the tertiary sector. Everyone was united in their deep concern for the public education system and clear about the threats to it from the current Government.
The common themes at all levels were Government under-investment, a shared experience of disrespect for expert opinion on education, and the sense of a deliberate privitisation agenda making inroads into the public system.
There were excellent presentations on the contextual issues created by growing inequality around the country from Major Campbell Roberts of the Salvation Army and Mike O’Brien from the Alternative Welfare Working Group. These presentations clarified the links between basic issues in schools and wider issues in communities such as lack of food for children, inadequate housing, and the impact of prevailing economic conditions on our social wellbeing.
We also heard from American academic Chris Lubienski about the growth of Charter Schools and lottery education, particularly in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. This “disaster capitalism” opportunism is a warning as Christchurch faces a major rebuild under a right-wing Government.
There were also excellent sessions on the risk of losing some Pasifika languages and restorative justice in high schools, not to mention the mess created by the rushed imposition of the National Standards policy.
I was grateful for the opportunity to talk with people about Green education policy and my Real Education Project. It was a great gathering of dedicated academics and activists in education – well done QPEC for your leadership. The QPEC website will be a site of continuing analysis and activity, so watch that space!