Two big policy releases from our two major parties this week offer contrasting visions for our education system.
Labour's long-awaited decisions on how schools are run have been matched by a wide-ranging National Party education discussion document. Here's how the parties shape up.
National changed the law in 2017 to state that the objectives of schools and preschools are to help each student "attain educational achievement to the best of his or her potential", develop skills such as resilience and social skills, and appreciate social diversity, the Treaty of Waitangi and te reo Māori.
Labour proposes to strengthen that last objective by requiring school boards to give effect to the treaty by taking "all reasonable steps" to teach Māori language and culture, achieving "equitable outcomes for Māori students" and ensuring that their policies and local curriculums reflect local Māori knowledge and customs.
Both parties promise unannounced "spot checks" on early childhood centres and have made unspecific promises to lift wages.
Labour proposes the biggest changes : gradually requiring all early childhood teachers to be qualified; and reducing staff/student ratios from 1:5 to 1:4 for infants under age 2, and from 1:10 to 1:5 for 2-year-olds.
National isn't proposing any change in ratios and opposes requiring all teachers to have qualifications because of the impact on home-based childcare, kōhanga reo and playcentres. It suggests scholarships and voluntary bonding to recruit more early childhood teachers.
In contrast to their preschool policies, it's National that is offering lower staff/student ratios in primary schools, down from 1:23 to 1:20 in Years 2 and 3, and down from 1:29 to 1:25 in Years 4 to 6. Labour hasn't proposed any change in these ratios.
Labour has announced a big administrative shake-up , creating a new Education Support Agency to beef up regional support for schools including taking over school buildings and maintenance for schools that don't want to look after that, and taking over zoning for all schools.
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National proposes a new Crown entity for school buildings, information and communications technology and school transport. But it says "parents will have real concerns" about reduced choice if schools lose control of zoning.
Surprisingly, the two parties have come together on plans to restructure the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and online reporting to parents across the curriculum. National has not proposed to bring back national standards.
Both parties support replacing decile funding with a new system based on anonymised data about every individual child .
Both also support screening children for conditions such as autism and dyslexia, which would bring in extra support. Labour plans to screen early for "giftedness" too .
However, the parties are still split ideologically over " partnership schools ", which National set up and Labour scrapped. National proposes 25 to 30 of them by 2023, allowing some to specialise in fields such as science.
Arguably the biggest differences in education policy are now at tertiary level.
National has come out against Labour's policies of scrapping fees for the first year of tertiary study, and of creating a new "super-polytech" to take over all existing polytechnics and industry training.
National is weighing up several alternatives to the fees-free first year, including adopting fees-free in the final year of study or creating a Singapore-style "Education Saver" scheme where parents and taxpayers each chip in about $200 a year through a child's early life to build up a kitty of about $10,000 available when they finish school.
National also wants to fund more professors and researchers to get at least one NZ university into the world's top 50 by 2030.
In contrast, Labour's draft tertiary strategy says all tertiary institutions "must reorient their systems towards workplace-focused teaching and learning".