January, 2009

Tomorrow's Schools Today: New Zealand's Experiment 20 Years On

  • Mark Adams

    Director of Regulatory Reform, Illinois Policy Institute
Key materials

In 1989, the government of New Zealand embarked on a radical series of reforms continuing into the 1990s to address a failing schools system. The government halved the size of the educational bureaucracy, putting money and power directly into the hands of parents. Despite setbacks that may have hindered even greater success, educational quality was greatly enhanced by these policies. Coupled with new research, New Zealand's experience provides valuable lessons on reforming education. Although the goals of reformers differed, virtually all agreed on improving equality of access to high quality education and performance per dollar spent on education. This paper finds significant parallels between New Zealand in the 1980s and many states today and makes recommendations for policymakers based on the successes and failures of the New Zealand experiment.