Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hopeless choice

In the interests of improving educational outcomes – at least in terms of what are currently seen as priorities – the present government is in the process of switching some funding away from what are perceived as hobby centred community education and learning programmes to numeracy and literacy focussed initiatives.

Not unexpectedly there is the usual outcry as the various pros of differing programmes are promoted and lauded – in many cases with more than valid argument while the new policy promoters dish up the hard to argue with apple pie of numeracy and literacy for the young.

In the middle of all this is a Minister – pity her- trying to choose between say (a genuine example) Jack who took a community based cooking class the better to look after his Alzheimer's stricken wife and class of young people whose literacy skills are woeful – while the community at large – a recession notwithstanding – scream that any refusal to fund both is inhumane.

Obviously this is hopeless. The reason it is hopeless is that because government is funding both, other solutions are crowded out and the level of taxation for education on the populace means said populace certainly cannot afford to do for itself.

Even the most modest voucher based system might give Jack back the tax he pays for education and the parents of the illiterate – so that individuals – not collective blocks driven by self interest – can choose what suits them.

The problem here is having the state choose by making the state the provider. Funding the state in these roles impoverishes the would be consumer – the students young and old.

The fundamentals are simple – return the tax raised in the name of education to those to whom it belongs, charge for the courses being offered and the automatic allocation systems which match student and supply aspirations will solve the problem no Minister can.

I fear the level of courage required is well beyond those operating in most western economies – certain those to be found in New Zealand.

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