Treasury’s Makhlouf pushes for more investment in teachers

Published: Tue 20 Mar 2012 01:01 PM
Treasury’s Makhlouf pushes for more investment in teachers
By Paul McBeth
March 20 (BusinessDesk) – Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf says more and better investment in teachers is integral to lifting New Zealand’s student achievement, which he sees as the single biggest issue in improving the nation’s standard of living.
In the latest of a series of speeches from the Treasury boss, Makhlouf singled out student achievement and teacher performance at the heart of improving New Zealand’s school system, which he said is vital for lifting the nation’s skill set. That would involve creating a more robust career progression for teachers.
“Class matters, but the quality of teaching matters more,” Makhlouf said in a speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle in Wellington. “We think redirecting that expenditure towards strengthening the teaching profession and supporting the better use of data would deliver better bang for our buck in improving student achievement. That’s the prize.”
The government would need to invest more in teachers, developing a measure to reward them appropriately that wasn’t simply “crude performance pay or bonuses on the basis of test scores,” he said.
Makhlouf said it would also require better use of students’ performance data, which would enable teachers and principals to pursue effective teaching methods.
“Without good information, parents often use poorer alternatives like raw NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) results, school decile or class size as indicators of quality,” he said.
The speech echoes Treasury’s briefing to the incoming Finance Minister, saying achievement levels haven’t matched the large funding increases in the sector over the past decade, and that greater emphasis needed to be put into teaching resources rather than reducing class sizes.
Makhlouf reaffirmed the global threat to New Zealand’s economic recovery after the Treasury downgraded its growth outlook in February.
The number one goal for government is to achieve a budget surplus to address economic imbalances, and “reduce pressure on our interest and exchange rates,” he said.
“Once the budget surplus is restored, the focus needs to turn to reducing the government’s debt,” he said.
The Treasury has recommended changes to the Public Finance Act that would let governments structure their spending with economic cycles as a means to “avoid adding to pressure on interest and exchange rates,” Makhlouf said.
New Zealand differs from other developed countries in that it still has scope to react to new economic shocks with monetary policy, he said.
“Any fiscal policy response would need to walk a fine line between supporting economic growth and maintaining fiscal and broader economic credibility with international lenders,” he said.
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