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
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.