So, it is finally here. On Wednesday teachers and principals across the primary and secondary education sectors will come together for a mega strike. This will be a strike on a size not seen before in New Zealand and which points to grave issues across the broader pre-tertiary education system.
I will not comment on the reasons for the strike as I have addressed these in prior articles, and I have little more to add. What I will say however is that it might be fortuitous for the Government that both the primary and the secondary education sectors are striking simultaneously. It could be seen through opportunistic eyes as an opportunity to talk about the expectations that the two sectors have of each other when dealing with Year 8 students that are about to make the transition from intermediate to high school. Is this even something that they discuss?
It is about time though that the community gets real as to what we realistically expect of teachers, and what teachers can realistically expect of students and their parents. At times I wonder whether some sort of contract between the parents of the student and the school about common expectations other than having a willingness to learn and behave properly. Except it really should not have to be coming to this.
In low socio-economic areas, I can understand that parents/caregivers might struggle to provide things such as breakfast to ensure the child starts that school day on a full stomach. I can understand it if sometimes stationery or uniforms are hard to afford – when I was at school it was pens, pencils, exercise books, rulers and rubbers, and most other stuff was extra. Now it is electronic devices. Across the course of the school year we had to pay up for the annual class camp, and a couple of school trips such as to see a production of The Nutcracker (which I did in Primary School), or go to Science Alive (an interactive place where children and adults could learn about science), the Antarctic Centre or Orana Park Wildlife Refuge.
Given the relative lack of change in incomes in the last two decades it makes me wonder how much a parent on a 1995 income could afford now in terms of kitting out their son/daughter for school – a time when a pie and Coke from the tuck shop cost not more than $3.50. It also makes me wonder how much of what we require for our children’s education is really necessary, whether there is not some better way of teaching with less material.
But how much can the school realistically provide? How much SHOULD the school realistically provide? There comes a point where the school knows its budget simply will not stretch any further and that if it does somehow manage to find a few more dollars, they will be in high demand for other uses.
The looming mega strike will be largely about pay and conditions, but I am sure that on Wednesday when the strike happens we will see that the teachers have other issues in tow as well.