A strong public education system that gives all New Zealanders the skills and knowledge they need to lead fulfilling and prosperous lives is the bedrock of a just society. We believe in an education system that brings out the very best in everyone and that means our educational offerings need to be as diverse as the learners we cater for.

New Zealand has an education system to be proud of. Our best and brightest are among the best and brightest in the world. Our curriculum is the envy of many other countries, and our devolved and empowered model of schooling provides enormous autonomy and flexibility to educators.

However, there are still some major constraints holding us back. Our focus on qualification attainment often rubs against a greater focus on providing each individual with a viable educational pathway that leads to meaningful work or further study. Schools are still encouraged to focus on ‘subjects’ rather than broadly based learning approaches, and vocational learning is often seen as a fall back option rather than a primary goal.

The changing nature of work is seeing people change jobs more frequently and entire classes of jobs are disappearing as they are replaced by automation. At the same time new higher tech industries are emerging in search of workers. This means we need our workforce to be more resilient and adaptable to change. Our education system is crucial not just in ensuring people learn what they need but also ensuring they ‘learn to learn’ so they can have a secure future.

Through our Future of Work Commission, we will be looking at ways in which our education system needs to change to meet the needs of the 21st Century. The focus of this paper is principally how to make lifelong learning a reality, beginning with the links between senior secondary schooling, further study and training, and the world of work. Other challenges and opportunities in the education system will be covered through our regular education policy development process.

This is one of six papers being produced as part of Labour’s Future of Work Commission. The others cover Technology, Economic Development and Sustainability, the Māori and Pasifika workforces, and Security of Income and Work.

These papers are designed to stimulate discussion and generate ideas for policies to achieve the objectives of the Future of Work Commission:

  • Decent Work

  • Lower Unemployment

  • Higher Wages

  • Greater Economic Security

  • High-Skilled, Resilient Workers

The Future of Work Commission seeks to ensure New Zealanders can confidently face the changing nature of work and have sustainable, fulfilling and well-paid employment in the coming decades. 

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