INDEPENDENT NEWS

Victorian England Returns To 21st Century NZ

Published: Wed 21 May 2003 10:21 AM
Victorian England Makes a Comeback in 21st Century New Zealand
Just how far the concept of equal opportunity in education has slipped backwards can be measured by the benevolence of businessman Scott Gilmour who has set up a trust to provide for the tertiary education fees of a class of primary students at Auckland's Wesley Primary School.
20 years ago education was a basic human right provided free to everyone - irrespective of means - but has now become a commodity to be purchased and where opportunity is determined by ability to pay.
The recent budget announcements on tertiary education offer no hope for real change. Tertiary fees are to continue to rise pushing the chance of university education or quality tertiary education further from many New Zealand children.
One third of our children now live in benefit-dependent homes. Is this charity option for education their only hope?
Providing such charity or scholarships was common in Victorian England. It is a low cost, low quality option and an unacceptable alternative.
This charity model supported by Mr Gilmour is one which is common in the United States where some 13,500 children are supported in this way by wealthy businesspeople. This is no example for New Zealand to follow. 33 million people in the United States live below the poverty line while obscene wealth is accumulated by a few.
It would be more heartening to hear New Zealand businesspeople pressure the government for quality tertiary education accessible to all rather than as charity to a chosen few.

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