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How do we help the most vulnerable children from failing in our education system?

COVID-19 has significantly increased education disparity amongst New Zealand's low-income families and those that enjoy a privileged upbringing.

27 AUGUST 2020 – COVID-19 has significantly increased education disparity amongst New Zealand's low-income families and those that enjoy a privileged upbringing. Coupled with findings from a UNICEF report in 2018 of rich countries, our most disadvantaged children's immediate future continues to look bleak magnifying the deep inequalities in education.

In 2018, the Innocenti Report | UNICEF - Report Card 15, rated New Zealand 33rd out of 38 OECD countries regarding the gap between the top 10 percent of students and the bottom 10 percent.

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Māori and Pasifika students made up a significant representation in the group of children who underachieved.

UNICEF Aotearoa NZ, Māori Council Chair, Mavis Mullins says Māori leaders and academics have made significant contributions over the decades to provide education solutions to address inequities.

“The government's attempts to implement current initiatives need considerably more resources, including following the advice of Māori education experts and ensuring that there are policies to fast track addressing systemic racism, inequality, and classism.

“This will accelerate the improvement of the unacceptable poor education statistics for Māori and consequently all students who are failing in education,” says Mrs Mullins.

UNICEF Aotearoa NZ, Executive Director, Vivien Maidaborn is deeply concerned at the added challenge of COVID-19 that our most disadvantaged students must now face.

“There needs to be some urgency to fix this situation. The education system does not do enough to allow Māori and Pasifika to be successful. The challenges of COVID-19 will be present for many years to come. I am very worried that this will increase inequality further and have a lasting impact for generations. 

“We know the impact COVID-19 is having on our poor and disadvantaged families here and around the world. Alongside the many systemic disadvantages experienced already by Māori and Pasifika students, COVID 19 is a new and unfathomable hurdle.

“Good, reliable internet connectivity, for example, in many rural lower socio-economic communities is lacking. We must also close the digital gap so that children acquire the foundational, transferable and entrepreneurial skills they need to realise their potential.”

Ms Maidaborn says, “UNICEF is due to release Report Card 16 internationally on the 3rd of September which will provide more research and statistics that governments of rich countries like New Zealand simply cannot ignore.”

UNICEF Aotearoa NZ will continue to advocate fearlessly so that every child has the right to quality educational resources, and that every child has the opportunity to an education that respects and celebrates their cultural identity and helps them achieve a high quality of life and standard of living.