Liberalisation of trade in education services : the implications of GATS for education in New Zealand, especially pertaining to primary and early childhood education
This paper situates trade in education services in the broader debates regarding the marketisation of education in New Zealand. It conducts a critical appraisal of the ideological influences on policy decisions to explore potential implications of GATS for the New Zealand education system. This discussion considers GATS in terms of the particular ideological and political project that underpins it. Market principles were introduced into New Zealand education fifteen years ago with the policies that rapidly and radically transformed the administration of the education system. These reforms, derived from neo-liberal economic discourse and New Right ideology, directly challenged the fundamental principles of equity, access and free public provision - ideals that had embedded education in its social context and relations, and structured education policy in New Zealand for the previous 50 years. Redefining education as a detached commodity traded in an education marketplace, and driven by imperatives of efficiency, profitability and "consumer choice", created the environment necessary for expanding international education markets. Trade in education services is New Zealand's fourth largest export earner. This research involves a review and analysis of literature to explore possible influences and implications of market and trade imperatives on the provision of primary and early childhood education services. In particular it discusses issues of equity, access, and the influences which shape the values and culture of education. It argues that prioritising commercial over social principles distorts the (traditional) role of education in terms of nation-building, identity formation, and the promotion of democratic values and citizenship. This is an exploratory and even speculative paper, raising issues and questions that can only be answered by full and open discussion involving all stakeholders and informed by comparative research. Acknowledging the tensions between the proponents of different perspectives and views it urges more open debate about where are we going with the ongoing and future role of education in New Zealand society.