Ko Marouna te toa: The effects of the Cook Islands public sector reform on the delivery of education
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The effects of the public sector reform impacted on all aspects of public services including the performance of the economy. Central to this argument was the re-organization of the operations of the public service from the traditional administration system to the new public management (NPM). Education, a critical service in any economy was not spared. Literatures around the application of NPM (a derivative of market principles and practices) to education (which was value based) suggested that NPM was dangerous for education and could deplete the value system of education and replace that with a focus on accounting for money by individuals who were self-interested and who would seek to maximize their benefit with guile. Arguments against NPM suggested that the human factor was neglected and that education had led to chaos among professionals, stakeholders and students. However, those who argued for the introduction of NPM suggested that it had made the provision of education more efficient, effective and relevant to the needs to the clients. It held those working in the education sector accountable for the resources used and made the system more responsive to the needs of the clients of education. Education in the Cook Islands experienced many changes since western type education was introduced by the Missionaries in the late 1800s. Cook Islands people have always regarded education as a right and also believed their participation in education would improve their lives as well as positively contribute to economic growth. As the public sector reform was a global phenomenon, the currents of NPM also converged on the Cook Islands and affected the delivery of education. Those changes revolutionalized education in ways that was not commonplace in the Cook Islands. However, professionals and stakeholders within education made the most of the system and diverged some of the practices to suit the need, the environment and the culture of the Cook Islands people. Change also refocused education from teachers teaching to student learning reinforcing the dedication of many teachers and education administrators to ensure NPM served the best interest of their clients; the students, despite the workload placed on them. The challenge in this thesis was to understand how the NPM system affected education and how the Cook Islands education professionals worked within the system in their favour. The stories of teachers and Ministry of Education professionals demonstrated that there was no resistance to the application of NPM system in the Cook Islands. In fact, the system was embraced by the education sector suggesting it was a positive change from their previous system of traditional administration. Much of their system was inherited from New Zealand where the environment, layers of bureaucracy and economic status of the country was different. Instead, it appeared the Cook Islands took much of what others deemed as dangerous for education and turned it into a positive opportunity for the Cook Islands education. This thesis presents the story of the revolution in the Cook Island education system.