Our Education System is New Zealand’s “Big Short”

I just rewatched the great movie The Big Short that dramatized the sub-prime mortgages collapse that led to the GFC. Years of self-interest and complacency – along with short-term thinking – created all of the circumstances needed to collapse a house of financial cards.  The movie that the very few picked it were able to buy “swaps” – effectively betting against the economy. They were treated like idiots prior to the collapse – but they were right.

The USA had sown the wind and the world reaped the whirlwind.

New Zealand is sowing its very own wind with how we are caring for young people and our education system. There are two differences to what I describe above. Firstly, there is no way to sell-short on and profit from the disaster. Secondly, this won’t impact world-wide – it will just massively damage our own people and nation. Many countries are streaking ahead of on education and care for young people. Our whirlwind has begun for our youth and there is clear evidence that the vast majority of NZ adults (especially politicians) are acting like the complacent Wall St of 2007/08.

A month or so back David Farrer posted results from the IPSOS NZ Issues Monitor.

Report Point:

  • Adults have little comparative concern about the NZ education system. Only 6% had high concern about education.

By strange co-incidence 6 (out of 2,600) is exactly the number of schools bothered to submit to the Education and Workforce Select Committee into school attendance.

We have little medium-term thinking, let alone long-term thinking. Politicians think within their cycle, kids don’t vote, many families know that their children are doing okay, many others are disengaged and/or worried about food on the table and petrol in the car today. Adults worry about themselves and there is no NZ Education Vision or visionaries for adults to support. Hipkins has been the very worst and most inactive Education Minister in living memory – but he has been allowed to be and is rarely challenged by the opposition.

Rather than bang on in prose I will do what Dr Michael Burry (brilliantly played by Christian Bale) did in The Big Short – just present evidence. The consequence of which is already disastrous – not limited to the 1 million NZers considering evacuation and 3% of our 20-29 workforce having already left (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/money/2022/07/cost-of-living-myob-poll-shows-more-than-1-million-kiwis-actively-considering-leaving-nz.html_)

Research Points

  • Schools submit their attendance data on a voluntary basis.
  • Comparable full attendance USA 84% to NZ 69%.
  • Comparable regular attendance Australia 73% to NZ 68%.
  • Comparable irregular attendance Canada 10% to NZ 28%.
  • Comparable regular attendance primary Ireland 88% to NZ 67.3%.
  • Comparable regular attendance secondary Ireland 86% to NZ 56.9%
  • Comparable UK attendance markers UK 87% NZ 51.64%
  • NZ attendance below the OECD average.
  • 2021 full (9/10) attendance Decile 9 – 10 = 70%
  • 2021 full (9/10) attendance Decile 1 – 2 = 42%
  • 2011 to 2021 attendance at Intermediate Schools decreased 11.8%
  • 2011 to 2021 Y9 – 15 schools’ attendance down from 63.1% to 52.2%
  • Asian full attendance 72%, European 63%, Maori 44%, Pasifika 44%.
  • The report recommends the continuation of the lunch in schools programme while admitting that they have no evidence that it is improving attendance or education outcomes.
  • Some submitters communicated that the NZC was irrelevant, rigid or crammed. Some wanted more emphasis placed on cooking, digital safety, life-skills, sexuality, climate.
  • In 2020 NZ had 64,877 students chronically absent and at least 10,000 more not enrolled anywhere.
  • That some young people (mainly female) are engaged in sibling care is noted. The Auckland Council report supports that assertion and also notes the 86% of single parent homes are female led.
  • In 2020 not one parent in NZ was prosecuted for non-attendance or non-enrolment of their child(ren).
  • The Committee notes the support (data, etc) of the Ministry of Education but places no accountability on them for the dire situation they have created/overseen (nor the Minister) in fact they state: “We consider the Ministry of Education is well placed to address the causes of non-attendance”.
  • 50% of Auckland adults oversees born.
  • Of the 126,129 15 – 24 year olds in Auckland 47.7% born in Asia, 20% in the Pacific.
  • Mental health worries demonstrably higher for single parents.
  • 76% of Auckland’s Pasifika students are in decile 1-3 schools, 48.9% of Maori, 16.4% of Asian and 5% of European.
  • From Auckland’s decile 9 – 10 schools 71.3% go on to tertiary education. The decile 9 – 10 pathway is heavily weighted to degree level study.
  • From Auckland’s decile 1 – 2 schools 44.7% go on to tertiary education. The decile 1 – 2 is heavily weighted towards Level 4 – 7 study and have a much lower completion rate.
  • In the “Southern Initiative” area 32.3% of Maori leavers have less than Level 1 NCEA – i.e. no qualifications at all.
  • Only 14.4% of Auckland young people are attaining degrees.
  • The current Auckland NEET rate is the highest since 2010. In the year to December 2021 more than 10,000 Auckland 15-24yos were Not in Employment, Education or Training.
  • Ethnic proportions for NEETs in Auckland at December 2021 – 20% Pasifika, 23% Maori, European 11%, Asian 10%.
  • Mental health has been decreasing. The report states that this “may be reflective of the increasing complexity of challenges young people are contending with.”
  • 69% of youth have “good well-being” compared to 76% in 2021.
  • 22.7% of young females have depression symptoms and increase from 17.4% in 2012.
  • 13% of NZ young people state they are in psychological distress.
  • NZ youth suicide in 2015 14.9/100,000.


  • IPSOS NZ 2022 Issues Monitor
  • Education and Work Force Select Committee: Inquiry into School Attendance
  • Press Release 9 June Jan Tinetti
  • A Profile of Children and Young People in Auckland: 2022 Update

PS – I did read yesterday on a somewhat left-of-centre site that Jacinda had “won the Covid battle”. They must have meant that we are now well and truly heading into the 50 for covid cases per-million: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/


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