A leaked document shows New Zealand has joined a small group of countries pushing for education to be included in a secret trade deal, the Trade In Service Agreement (TISA).
Teachers and education academics say that including education in the deal would be bad for teaching and learning.
“The proposed deal would restrict future governments’ rights to regulate the quality and provision of education and protect unique aspects of New Zealand’s education system,” Tertiary Education Union (TEU) President Sandra Grey said.
NZEI national secretary Paul Goulter said this could result in foreign corporations suing any government that sought to legislate against the expansion of charter schools or to improve the quality of private early childhood education services.”
The deal could lead to further commercialisation and privatisation of education, with negative impacts on the equity and quality of education available to Kiwi students.
The TISA agreement would allow for easier access for multi-national private sector trading in services such as banking and healthcare.
Education unions NZEI, PPTA and TEU say the New Zealand government should withdraw its support for the proposal and instead back countries with high performing education systems – including the EU, Japan, Korea and Taiwan – in opposing the inclusion of education in TISA.
“The Novopay fiasco should be sufficient proof that privatisation of the education system is not the way to go,” PPTA President Angela Roberts said.
“But Novopay only affected teachers and support staff. The kind of marketisation TISA would open up would be extremely harmful for students’ education.”
Ms Roberts said examples of the impact of including education in TISA would be restrictions on the government purchasing local publications in favour of cheaper standardised foreign publications.