Knowledge and Skills
All people have the knowledge and skills they need to participate fully in society.
Lifelong learning and education are valued and supported. All people have the
necessary skills to participate in a knowledge society.
Knowledge and skills enhance people’s ability to meet their basic needs,
widen the range of options open to them in every sphere of life, and enable
them to influence the direction their lives take. The skills people possess
can also enhance people’s sense of self-worth, security and belonging.
We live in a society where access to information and proficiency with
technology are becoming increasingly important. An inclusive society will increasingly
require all people to have high levels of knowledge and skills.
Knowledge and skills include not only education and training, but also
abilities gained though work and daily life – for example, parenting skills
or skills relevant to recreation or leisure activities.
For many people, the acts of learning and of mastering new skills are
important in themselves. Possession of knowledge and skills can be integral
to a person’s sense of belonging and self-worth: many people define themselves
by what they can "do", not only in employment but elsewhere in life.
Knowledge and skills relate directly to employment decisions and career
choices. Those with relatively few educational qualifications are more likely
to be unemployed and, on average, have lower incomes when in work. This affects
not only the economic standard of living people are able to enjoy, but also
their security and ability to make choices about their lives. Knowledge and
skills are important for gaining access to services and for understanding and
exercising civil and political rights.
Five indicators are used in this chapter.
Each provides a snapshot of New Zealanders’ acquisition of knowledge and
skills at a particular stage in their lives, from early childhood to school-leaving
age to adulthood. They are: participation in early childhood education, school
leavers with higher qualifications, the educational attainment of the adult
population, adult literacy skills in English and participation in tertiary
education. The focus of four of the five indicators is on formal education
and training. This reflects both the importance of formal education and training
and also the availability of data – there is little data that captures the
contribution of informal, on-the-job training to knowledge and skill acquisition.
The indicators are relevant to both current and future social wellbeing.
Participation in early childhood education is included because it contributes
significantly to a child’s later development. Going to a kindergarten, kōhanga
reo or some other early childhood service prepares children for further learning
and helps to equip them to cope socially at school. Quality early childhood
programmes can help narrow the achievement gap between children from low-income
families and more advantaged children.36
Students who attain higher qualifications at school tend to have a wider
range of options for higher education and future employment. Those who leave
school early are at a greater risk of unemployment or having low incomes.37
Educational attainment of the adult population provides a broad picture
of New Zealanders’ overall attainment of knowledge and skills. It is influenced
by factors not measured in the other indicators, such as adults gaining new
qualifications and new migrants arriving with qualifications.
Literacy is a fundamental skill. A good level of literacy in English,
including numeracy and the ability to understand documents and tables, is vital
in the workplace and in everyday life.
Participation in tertiary education opens up career opportunities and
provides people with the skills they need to participate in society. This has
become particularly important with the increasing dependence on "knowledge" industries that require well-educated, highly skilled workforces. It also captures
aspects of lifelong learning through the participation of adults in tertiary