Who should I vote for? Primary and secondary education policies at a glance

New Zealand's political parties have significantly different policies on testing in schools.

National introduced National Standards in schools in 2009. They track children's progress in reading, writing and math against the expectation for their age from years 1 to 8, with results shared with parents at least twice a year.

National would expand National Standards so parents can track children's progress online, but the Opposition would abolish the tests, saying they have narrowed the curriculum. The Opportunities Party (TOP) would have NCEA testing only take place in students' final year of school.

Language has become a focus of education policy too, with Labour, the Māori Party, TOP and the Greens all supporting significant increases to Māori language teaching. National announced major policy that would see a second language introduced at all primary schools, with Māori one of 10 languages likely to be offered.

Most parties would increase access to te reo Māori learning, but only three would make it compulsory.
Most parties would increase access to te reo Māori learning, but only three would make it compulsory. Photo credit: Newshub.

More policy at a glance:

So what would the parties do in primary and secondary schools?

The Māori Party would "affirm tribal knowledge and history" by introducing Māori language and "ways of knowing" to the curriculum. It aims to raise Māori and Pacific literacy and numeracy rates so they are comparable to non-Māori.

The Māori Party wants to implement a 'Passport to Life' programme across high schools. It would see all rangatahi (youth) leaving college with a driver's licence, bank account, IRD number and CV. It has an emphasis on child care, with a policy of free after school and holiday programmes, as well as free early childhood education. Read the Māori Party's education policy.

A second language guarantee in all primary schools is flagship policy for National. Schools - and children if they wish - will be able to choose from one of 10 "priority languages", including te reo Māori. The party would begin rolling out the policy over the next few years, but has struggled to answer questions on when exactly - and who would do the teaching. Children would learn the language for an hour a week.

National says National Standards have helped identify math as a problem area in New Zealand schools, and as a result National will boost funding for math in primary schools by $126 million over four years. It would also extend National Standards so parents can track children's progress against the expectation for their year group online. Read National's education policy.

Opposition parties would abolish National Standards.
Opposition parties would abolish National Standards. Photo credit: Newshub.

New Zealand First says teachers' workloads are "fast approaching an unsustainable level". It would hold an 'Education Hui' with teachers, students and parents to develop a 30-year plan that would remain in place across governments.

NZ First would abolish National Standards, saying they have "narrowed the definition of success" whereas the New Zealand Curriculum provides "wide success criteria" and should form the centre of the education system. Read NZ First's education policy.

Labour says teachers are spending too much time on testing and bureaucracy and not enough time teaching. It would abolish National Standards, and use the time and money freed up on professional development for teachers, focusing on struggling children.

Labour would increase education funding by $4b over four years - including tertiary and early childhood education - with $1.8b to be spent on more teachers, professional development and learning resources. Part of that funding would go toward giving schools that don't ask for donations $150 per student - an attempt to help out low-decile schools which struggle to raise funds. Read Labour's education policy.

The Greens' education policy focuses on addressing inequality. It would provide school 'hubs' with nurses, after school care and food. It would put an additional $315 million over three years into helping students who need learning support, including $70 million employing 'Children's Champions' to support students. Funding for education overall would be increased to a level that would mean schools do not need to rely on fundraising to meet operating costs. It would decrease class sizes and centrally fund teachers and support staff.

The Green Party has a goal to get half of all children cycling or walking to school by 2020 under its Safe to Schools policy. It would reduce the speed limit around schools and build walking and cycling infrastructure keeping kids off the roads. Read the Green's education policy.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) believes testing leads to a focus on reading, writing and math when the focus should be on skills it says businesses want: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication. It says these skills are harder to test.

TOP would implement free full-time early childhood education, require new teachers to have postgraduate qualifications and wants to encourage collaboration across schools by stopping the comparison of assessment results. Read TOP's education policy.

ACT is big into personal choice, including when it comes to education. The party believes private schools "face an uneven playing field" compared to public schools. Private schools would get more funding under ACT - every student in the private system would get half the funding state-educated students receive.

Partnership schools are a principal ACT policy. It would open more of them and allow private and state schools to apply for partnership school status. There are currently 10 partnership schools operating across the country. Read ACT's education policy.