“Poor” New Zealand Among Lowest In OECD For Education Spending

Figures released by the education ministry show that New Zealand ranks 21st out of 28 OECD countries for spending on primary school pupils – $6939, per head. For secondary schools fair even worse and are ranked 23rd with $8470 spent per pupil.

The spend per head is way below the OECD averages of $9021 for primary pupils and $11,221 for secondary pupils.

We suspect that this is because families in New Zealand are expected to pick up the shortfall – it’s the old “user pays” principle.

In reality even these low levels of government funding ares grossly inadequate for some schools (see below) and things that schools in other OECD countries may take for granted like music, drama, dance, sport and cultural activities are seen as extras in New Zealand; schools have to pay for them themselves

John Hartvelt picked up the story that was published on Stuff today, saying:

“Education Minister Anne Tolley says the statistics are simply a “direct reflection” of the country’s relatively low wealth

It’s because we’re quite poor compared to other OECD countries,” Mrs Tolley said. “It’s a direct reflection of where we are. We’re down the bottom, because that’s where our wealth is.”

New Zealand ranks 22nd out of 30 OECD countries for gross domestic product per capita. Mrs Tolley said that, if the education spend was measured as a percentage of GDP, the country ranked well above average – “about sixth”.” more

State schools in New Zealand usually ask for a ‘parental donation,’ which is often hundreds of dollars, to make up the shortfalls in government funding.

Although this donation is supposed to be voluntary there have been a number of incidents of families being harangued into making the payments that they simply cannot afford to make  in addition to the other costs  – such as expensive school uniforms, books, subject course fees, exam fees, excursions, activities, sport fees, camps etc.

Schools in New Zealand are graded according to a decile rating system, the highest rated schools (decile 10) require a larger “voluntary” contribution from families than the lower ranking schools and accordingly receive less government money.

Back in October 2008 we said:

“Increasing pressure is put on both parents and children who fail to make these contributions. As the recession deepens in New Zealand and the family budgets become tighter schools are bound to be the first to lose out on this extra funding, education is going to be one of the first casualties of New Zealand’s economic downturn.”

“Pay up or face a bigger bill

Back then the “donation” at a school like Macleans College in East Auckland was $460 a year. Parents who failed to make the payment were charged higher fees for “popular school activities”. Only 56% of the school’s cost were met by the government:

“Students whose parents have not paid the annual donation at one of New Zealand’s largest schools are being stung with higher fees if they want to attend camps or the school ball.

Education Minister Chris Carter has asked for a review of the new system at Macleans College in East Auckland, saying the annual donation should be considered a donation.

The ministry does not believe the school is breaching guidelines by targeting students whose parents have not paid – and other schools say the move is ingenious.

Macleans students whose parents have not paid the $460 annual donation are charged higher fees for popular school activities.

For example, the school ball will cost $120 for non-donation-payers, instead of the $80 for a student who has paid.

The two-tiered system also covers the school’s Cambridge International examinations. Students who have paid the donation are charged a $25 local processing fee, compared with a $225 charge for non-payers.

Associate principal Simon Peek said the system was introduced to cover the cost of voluntary activities and events. The Cambridge charges are for staff the school has to pay to supply the examinations.

Peek said “in reality” only 56 per cent of the school’s costs were met by the Government’s operations grant.”

Maclean’s website currently has this statement about their donation and how it is spent, some of it goes on helping to make up some the government’s shortfall:

School Donation
The school charges each student a school donation. The donation is payable between enrolment in August and the start of the new school year.

The donation is to primarily fund the “extras” that the government grant given to finance the operations of the school does not provide for.

Macleans deems these “extras”, such as music, drama, dance, sport and cultural activities, to be vitally important for the on-going educational enrichment of students and the school is very reliant on the parent donation for major assistance in this area.

The donation also helps pay for shortfalls in government funding to cover such items as class materials, curriculum related class trips, computer technology, library books, the school magazine, sports and cultural equipment, or any such purpose as may be approved by the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees will take good care that the money paid by parents will be properly administered and be used for the purposes approved by the Board under its statutory authority, as determined by the Education Act. Receipts will be issued on payment of donations. The Board of Trustees reviews and sets the donation each year and for 2010 it will be $460.00 per student.”