Editorial: Donations are now an essential part of school life

By Dylan Thorne

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There was a time when the only items required to pursue a good education were a pencil and paper.

Those days are long gone and the demands now placed on education reflect the massive impact information technology (IT) has had on the world over the past 20 years.

The biggest change has been the sheer volume of information now just a few keystrokes away on a keyboard.

The information ranges from useful, to misleading and, at worst, harmful.

As long as appropriate filters are in place, access to this information and an in-depth knowledge of the workings of IT are now a necessary part of an education.

The problem appears to be that the Ministry of Education is struggling to keep up this societal shift and, more importantly, the cost associated with it.

Anyone who has tried to keep up to date with technology knows how rapidly it changes and how expensive the latest gadget can be.

The question arises as to whether it is a fair demand that schools keep up with these changes.

Should parents bear the cost or should education return to its roots and focus on the basics?

The Bay of Plenty Times has reported on schools' growing dependence on donations to provide a well-rounded education.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell recently said donations were no longer the icing on the cake but balanced the books.

The school, the Bay's largest, last year collected $93,000 in donations, and has this year so far received $67, 00.

Mr Randell said $8000 of donations was spent on student visits to Otumoetai Pool, $6000 on Project K, and $12,000 on Year 9 camps.

Other miscellaneous amounts were spent where needed towards text and library books, running the school's ICT (information and communication technologies) programme, Kiwisport and music.

However, donations alone are not enough to provide a multi-faceted education programme.

As reported in today's Bay of Plenty Times Weekend schools are finding increasingly innovative ways to raise money to cover the shortfall.

Mount Maunganui Primary School PTA last month hosted a fashion show, raising more than $5000.

PTA chairwoman Coraleigh Parker says the money will go towards technology and upgrading the junior playground.

"At the end of the day, our kids could still go to school and learn to read and write and spell and do maths, but what we provide them with is the quality of life."

It is commendable that schools strive to provide a well-rounded education but it comes at a cost.

A working knowledge of IT is now considered a basic skill set by employers, so there is an obligation that schools ensure pupils are proficient in this area.

Most parents would be unwilling to send their children to a school that does not provide a computer course but would also be alarmed by any demands that they supply the necessary equipment.

If more parents paid donations, it would reduce the on-going pressure on schools to fundraise.

A survey of high schools found the proportion of parents paying donations varied from 35 per cent at Katikati College to almost 100 per cent at Bethlehem College.

If we want our schools to be well equipped, we must be willing to contribute. It is disappointing that some parents choose not to pay their donation if they can afford to do so.

As this paper has noted before, those who choose not to pay should not forget that education in the country does, in fact, remain free. Parents are not being asked to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to educate a child each year.

However, it is becoming clear that they should feel some obligation to contribute towards the costly exercise that is modern education.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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