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Increased scholarship fees an extra barrier to education for poorest

Students sitting scholarship exams this year will be charged $30 per paper, as reported in the NZ Herald. The fee has apparently been introduced as a way to discourage large numbers of students who enter the exams but don't sit them.

State schooling is supposed to be free of charge at the point of use. 

Charging families for NCEA and Scholarship examination fees is wrong. It is wrong morally and it is wrong as a public policy lever. It is taxing students to participate in education. Taxes should not change behaviour unless deliberately designed to do so.  

Increasing taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugar can easily be argued to be good policy if they produce the desired behaviour change. What is the most likely change that will arise from increasing Scholarship examination fees? Those who regard the increased Scholarship fee as a financial burden are more likely not to participate. This is a bad thing. 

Schooling should be free for very good reasons: there is a well-established relationship between higher levels of academic achievement and social inclusion, economic independence and wellbeing. The more schooling success you have the greater the chance of leading a fulfilling life.  

Achieving higher levels of NCEA and Scholarship success offers a very clear a route out of intergenerational child poverty.  

We know, however, that schooling is not free in Aotearoa. In fact the costs of schooling are increasingly being transferred from the state to the family. NCEA and Scholarship fees are a good example of this.  

If charging for a free education is legally questionable, morally wrong and a counterproductive public policy lever, why on earth are Scholarship fees being increased?