Empty promises? Pivate sector employers and public education in aotearoa/New Zealand

Year: 1999

Author: Bradford, Margaret

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Employers in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in the nineteen-nineties, tend to have an holistic perception of potential employees. Rather than looking primarily at skills and qualifications, personal attributes are included under the rubric of 'employable skills'. Employers expect potential employees, including school-leavers, to possess not only such characteristics as punctuality and conscientiousness, but also to have such qualities as enable them to work within a team, to communicate effectively with others, to be able to solve problems that arise during the production process, and so on.

Employees hold that the state school system should inculcate these sorts of qualities in students, in order to prepare school-leavers for the workplace. Increasingly, heads of private corporations are using their influence on the education system to promote such perceptions of state schools.

In this era of high youth unemployment, the balance of power between secondary school students and employers from the private business sector can be seen to be heavily weighted in favour of the latter. Questions arise as to tile type of relationship between the expectations of students and those of employers. Do employers' expectations impact upon the school curriculum? If so, in what way? How are employers' expectations to be communicated to the students effectively? This paper will look at some questions raised by the contradictions that emerge when state schools are expected to prepare young people for an ever-shrinking labour market.

The primary data in this paper stems from the qualitative research I am currently undertaking towards a Ph.D. in the Education Department at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand. My aim is to explore some of the impacts that the current intensification of business interest, in state educational policy-making and implementation in New Zealand, may have had upon state secondary school(s). In particular, I am interested in schools which cater for students in lower socio-economic area(s). Coast View High School (a pseudonym), where I am conducting a case study, is one such school, wherein a significant number of students have parent(s) who are unemployed or underemployed.