What is best for children?Jane Silloway Smith - 13-09-12

The Government is concerned that the children of beneficiaries are currently missing out on a key educational experience in early childhood education (ECE), and so it has decided that from July receipt of a full benefit will be conditional on children gaining this experience. 

On the positive side, study after study has demonstrated the gains to be made, especially among children from low-income backgrounds, from attendance at high quality ECE. Thus it probably would be a good thing for more children of beneficiaries to be spending at least some time in ECE.

But just because higher enrolments in ECE—one of the Government’s Better Public Service goals—might be a good thing does not make it an equally good idea to have the Government increase ECE enrolments via the stick of benefit sanctions.

It is reasonable for the Government to expect certain behaviours and actions from those to whom it extends a benefit. Being work-ready, for instance, seems to be a legitimate obligation for most beneficiaries.

But when the Government attempts to interfere in the decisions a beneficiary parent or parents make in raising their children, it would seem to have gone too far. 

It is essential that families be able to make decisions about how they will raise their children, so long as the immediate health and safety of the children are not at risk. Being in receipt of a benefit does not abrogate this right of families.

If the Government wishes for more children to enrol in ECE, it should do more to support parents in making this choice either by encouraging high quality ECE providers to enter and saturate the market or by offering more subsidies and credits for low-income families. What it should not do is make receipt of a full benefit dependent upon parents giving up their right to choose.

For Jane's interview on this topic in the New Zealand Herald click here


Charles, 9/13/2012 2:18:41 PM: Great article Jane, the government has way over stepped its mark on this one. Very disappointing

John & Judy Mccaffery, 9/23/2012 7:11:55 PM: We want to raise the children and grandchildren in our family in a Pacific language environment and and it is cultural and linguistic genocide to force us and our family members to send them to All English Language ECE. We are sure that many Maori families feel the same. Maori is an official language of NZ and unless enough places in quality Centres are available in Maori and Pacific languages forcing us into All English ECE will bring the UN into this discussion very quickly.

Jane Silloway Smith, 9/24/2012 12:47:26 PM: @John & Judy Mccaffery: Thank you for your comment and perspective. There are many reasons why it is not a good idea for the government to take educational decision-making out of parent's hands.

samantha, 10/15/2012 8:45:07 PM: This proves that we cannot always rely the safety and future of our kids to the government, especially when it comes to their education. Personally, I make sure to send my kids to the right schools and guide them in every possible way. Moreover, when playing games I only allow educational apps to ensure that they will learn good things and be productive citizens in the future. The Maddie and Matt's series of applications that I've seen in the App Store for one are definitely must-haves.

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