30 Oct 2018

NZ among worst ranked for inequality in education - report

12:08 pm on 30 October 2018

New Zealand has one of the most unequal education systems in the world, a new global report shows.

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A Unicef report ranks New Zealand at 33 out of 38 for inequality in the classroom. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The Unicef report ranks the country at 33 out of 38 for inequality in the classroom, using global data from different reports looking at education from early education to secondary school.

The report looks into the gap in children's access to tuition - in the context of income and education.

Part of what contributed to such inequality was a lack of household income, Unicef director of child rights Andre Whittaker said.

"Certainly being able to reduce the impact of socio-economic inequality would be something that would improve education also."

Studies showed when there was at least one professional parent in the home, reading scores were higher, which allowed children to engage more at school.

Mr Whittaker said it was about fairness, and every child deserved the right to an education.

"Bringing the lowest-performing children up, doesn't mean pulling the highest-performing children down."

Local researcher Jess Berentson-Shaw was commissioned by Unicef in New Zealand to what the report showed.

She said the cost of schooling, especially early childhood education, was one barrier that contributed to the system being so unequal.

"ECE [early childhood education] is really pretty much set up around the sort of white Pākehā well-off life. It still costs money, quite a lot of money to send your kids to ECE. Despite the number of subsidies in place, those subsidies are quite difficult to navigate your way through and get access to all of them."

Schools that helped close the gap between children of different backgrounds have addressed the cultural needs of those children, Dr Berentson-Shaw said.

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