Compulsory education (schools)The ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ reforms of New Zealand’s school sector in 1989 saw a shift from highly centralised command-and-control system of governance to highly devolved “self-management” model. A key feature was the creation of community-based Boards of Trustees which were given responsibility for governing their individual schools. These Boards are accountable to their local community as well as the government.
At that time, ‘governance’ and management were still framed as sub-branches of administration rather than disciplines in their own right. The reforms therefore focussed strongly on administrative compliance with centrally-determined policy. That understanding has persisted within both the sector and the Ministry. As Openshaw (2014) notes, “although teacher unions have remained sceptical of these changes, and reservations still remain concerning the impact of the reforms, few critics appear to have advocated any serious alternative to the present reformed system. Any suggested changes appear to be more along the lines of tinkering, rather than wholesale change.”
Alongside the formal governance roles of the Ministry and school boards of trustees are sector-level relationships of government agencies1 and education NGOs. The command-and-control approach inherited from the pre-1989 Department of Education has been strongly evident until the last 18 months or so, when it has begun to soften into a more collaborative and genuinely consultative approach to policy development and enactment rather than implementation.
The present Minister of Education (Hekia Parata) and Secretary for Education (Peter Hughes) have introduced a strong and clearly stated focus on the Ministry as ‘the steward of the system’ rather than the ‘sector leader’ role of previous years. While this is taking time to permeate through the layers of Ministry bureaucracy, the new stewardship role (which is much more closely aligned to the original vision of the Picot Report) now appears to be gaining traction and credibility with sector groups.
The most notable examples of this shift have been the Ministerial Cross-Sector Forums instituted in 2012, and the Investing in Educational Success (IES) announced in January 2014 which have both placed a strong emphasis on communicating strategic policy intentions and building consensus with NGO sector stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the policy issues and co-design sector-wide responses.
This new direction is strongly aligned with the views expressed in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 publication The Future Role of Civil Society and raises interesting possibilities for further evolution of policy development and implementation for the future.
The main challenges that the new model of shared policy development in the New Zealand school system must continue to overcome include
- strengthening bureaucratic capacity;
- intense and longstanding distrust between agencies and the Ministry and between individual schools
- information asymmetry (public engagement)
- fragmentation of funding; policy initiatives and community capability
Notes1Notably the Ministry of Education, Education Review Office (ERO), New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC), replaced on July 1 2015 by the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (EDUCANZ) and the Office of the Auditor General (OAG)
2 These include teacher unions (New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI Te Riu Roa), Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)), principals’ groups (New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF), Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand (SPANZ), Special Education Principals’ Association of New Zealand (SEPANZ) boards of trustees (New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA)) and others (New Zealand Area Schools Association (NZASA), New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools (NZAIMS), New Zealand Catholic Education Office (NZCEO))
BibliographyOpenshaw, R. (2014) Picot Report/Tomorrow’s Schools. Dictionary of Educational History in Australia and New Zealand (DEHANZ),7 January. Available http://dehanz.net.au
Picot, B. et al. 1988 Administering for Excellence: Effective Administration in Education.
Phillips, S. and S. Rathgeb Smith (2014) A Dawn of Convergence? Third sector policy regimes in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ cluster, Public Management Review http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2014.965272
Tanzi, V. (2010) ‘The Role of the State’ in Government versus Markets: The Changing Economic Role of the State, Cambridge University Press.
World Economic Forum (2013) The Future Role of Civil Society http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FutureRoleCivilSociety_Report_2013.pdf