Threads of inequity: the marginalisation of New Zealand area schools
Fisk, Robert William
This is a study of New Zealand Area Schools, based on data collected in August and September 1998. The study originated from a concern held by the writer that the Area Schools had not met their potential because certain practices appeared to discriminate against composite rural schools when these were compared with other types of schools. Because these injustices have occurred over time, in fact from the days of District High Schools, and have endured despite changes made in education from time to time, they are likened to the threads of a tapestry depicting the history of these schools. They have been termed inequities because the five practices identified in this study disadvantaged these schools when compared with other rural and urban secondary schools. The manner in which the inequities disadvantage the Area Schools is one of a prolonged marginalisation of the importance, and hence the needs, of this important supplier of education to rural areas in New Zealand. The Reforms of Education (1988-1992) created major changes to the administration of New Zealand's education system, offering the opportunity to address areas of concern throughout the entire structure. However, the Reforms of Education did not address the concerns of rural areas and previous inequities remained. In fact, as a consequence of the Reforms of Education exposing all schools to market forces and public choice, the Area Schools were further disadvantaged because there was no natural market for them. Furthermore, by treating all schools as if they were simply primary or secondary schools the Reforms of Education as implemented by the Ministry of Education disadvantaged the Area Schools further yet, because they became in the eyes of the Ministry of Education at times a primary or a secondary school, or both, and at times neither. The Reforms of Education occurred as a result of the New Zealand Labour Government of 1984 adopting strongly New Right economic and public administration policies, which the same government in its second term of office (1987-1990) brought to bear on the education sector. The National Government (1990-1999) which succeeded Labour left previous education policies virtually intact, while the Labour government which followed (1999 to the present) began to address some of the less popular changes created by the Reforms. The ascendancy of the New Right in New Zealand is studied in this research, as are the traditional and present roles of the Area Schools. The parameters of this research were non-experimental. Through questionnaires sent to the Chairpersons and Principals of Area Schools (29 out of the 33 targeted as rural consolidated schools eventually participated in the study) this research describes the current state of affairs at the time (1998), while relevant literature places the study in its wider context, and material from the files of the New Zealand Area Schools' Association illuminate the findings. The Area Schools adminstrators were also asked to find contributors who could give their first hand experiences to enlighten the semiotic evidence gathered by an open-ended questionnaire. A five point Likert scale was used to express a range of opinion from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Quantification of the responses was kept simple; median, mode and centralising indexes such as standard deviation were used to gauge the opinions of those involved in the study, opinions reinforced and extended by a range of open-ended questions posed in the second part of the questionnaire. The study finds that the original inequities remain. There is evidence that the scope and effectiveness of the Area Schools are limited by attitudes of those in authority; there remains disadvantageous treatment in the allocation of staffing resources; government policies are still imposed despite the wishes of parents; central control still limits the degree of autonomy of these schools (although this comment applies to a broader range of schools now, but still impacts adversely in terms of the rural experience); and the pressure for consolidation and closure is as intense as ever. However, the study does find that the Reforms of Education have in fact increased parents' voices in the running of the schools, and have freed the Area Schools from a previous rigid and ungainly bureaucracy. On balance, those who responded did not feel that the Area Schools had gained much advantage from the Reforms of Education.
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
xi, 471 leaves :ill. (some col.) ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. University of Otago department: Education. "August 27th, 2002."