Election jitters prompt job shift

March 8, 1996

New Zealand has a new education minister following a cabinet reshuffle in the lead up to the country's first proportional representation election.

Long-serving education minister Lockwood Smith has been shifted to agriculture, with the education portfolio going to employment minister Wyatt Creech. Mr Creech is tipped to bring a lower key, more conciliatory, approach to a portfolio that is becoming an electoral liability for the minority National government, shored up until election time by a formalised coalition with the United Party.

Mr Creech's stance on education is unknown. However, he has said he supports a 25 per cent student contribution to tertiary education.

Dr Smith held the education portfolio for five years, during which time he introduced curriculum reforms, furthered major qualifications reforms and introduced the idea of a "seamless" education system with opportunities for students to work towards national qualifications in a variety of education and employment settings.

Dr Smith has been unpopular with teacher unions over his push for merit pay and bulk funding of teachers' salaries. Under him, universities and polytechnics have had to cope with increased numbers, per capita funding cuts and higher student fees.

Dr Smith has also tried to replace tertiary governing councils, which include staff and student representation, with a board of directors of appointed members. He is also pushing for the transfer of ownership of tertiary education assets and a charge on capital assets.

These controversial proposals and the fraught issue of including degrees on the national qualifications framework have been referred to consultation groups to resolve.

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