Gerry Brownlee National Education Spokesperson
28 September 2001
Focus on the basics
The proliferation of the school curriculum has to take some of the blame for the appalling demise in New Zealand's
literacy standards and the effect that could have on our economic future, National's Education spokesperson Gerry
Brownlee said today.
"The reality is New Zealand has taken its eye off the ball in literacy over the years and we need to get that focus back
in our schools. Out with the politically correct curriculum and in with the basics."
Today's Christchurch Press reports Sir Angus Tait as saying that New Zealand's economic future is jeopardised by abysmal
standards of literacy displayed by students and university graduates. Canterbury University has passed a motion voicing
concern at the accumulating evidence of the inadequate literacy level of graduating high school students and has called
on the Government for remedial action.
"National started the Literacy and Numeracy strategy, which is achieving some good results with primary school children.
The next step is to free schools from an overly prescriptive and broad curriculum.
"Teachers are required to fill the school day with a smorgasbord of learning. I have to question how many curriculum
areas are actually being well taught when there is so much to cover.
"The focus for the first five years of a child's schooling should be on literacy and numeracy. Schools should be able to
choose what other subjects they want to cover in their curriculum, based on what's relevant to their pupils and to their
"In every school in New Zealand, getting every child to do the basics well should be the top goal," Mr Brownlee said.