In 1877, New Zealand led the world by mandating free compulsory primary education.

A generation later in 1900, New Zealand boasted the highest standard of living in the world. Starting in the mid-1930s, secondary education progressively became compulsory and free.

Again, a generation later in 1950, New Zealand had the highest standard of living in the world.

There is little doubt that the very best investment any state can make in its future is the education of its population.

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One of the worst aspects of National's "reforms" of our education system is the squeeze put on parents to pay for 20 hours' early childhood education, which was free under Labour.

Many families most in need of this kick-start for their kids, often Maori and Pasifika, just can't pay.

If National is serious about reducing the "tail" of failure in our schools, then free and accessible early childhood education is essential.