2017 International Literacy Day - Press Release

Literacy Aotearoa 07/09/17

International Literacy Day: time to reflect on political parties’ literacy policies

Auckland, 7 Mahuru (September) 2017 – International Literacy Day (Friday 8 Mahuru [September] 2017) is a time to consider those New Zealanders who wish to gain the literacy or numeracy skills required to participate fully in a modern society. Around 43 percent of the population aged 16-64 (1,294,053) have literacy skills at level 2 or lower as measured by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)*.

And measures in three key areas – skills by ethnicity, literacy skills of the aging population and lack of intent to participate in further education – make this an issue that matters today and into the future.

While adult literacy levels remain concerning, there are signs that the issue is being given greater recognition. “It was heartening during the first leaders’ debate between Prime Minister, Bill English and Labour Party leader, Jacinda Ardern, to hear both state their commitment to improving adult literacy, recognising that it is central to addressing many social issues,” says Literacy Aotearoa Te Tumuaki (Chief Executive), Bronwyn Yates.

To help keep people informed about this critical issue Literacy Aotearoa has collated and summarised the published polices of all parties with respect to literacy.

“Literacy Aotearoa suggests that voters consider three questions when assessing parties’ attitude to adult literacy” says Ms Yates. “Does this party recognise the extent to which a lack of adult literacy skills affects individuals, families, entire communities and the economy? Does it recognise that some sectors of society are affected more than others? Does it have a coherent approach to the need to improve adult literacy levels?”

* Literacy scores in the Survey of Adult Skills are divided into six levels, ranging from below level 1 to level 5. Level 3 literacy and numeracy is regarded as the minimum necessary to participate fully in a digital economy and a modern society. 


  • Will lift the overall salary range by adding $1 Billion into the funding that is available for teacher salaries.


  • Will provide adequately trained staff and resources for recognised learning support in programmes in literacy.
  • Will widen the teaching of practical and social life skills in primary and secondary schools.
  • Will work with Māori based organisations and representative groups to develop a programme of enhancing rangatiratanga in Māori education at all levels, and provide adequate resources to support this.
  • Will develop new and expand current teaching and learning approaches that are effective and keep Māori students engaged in education.
  • Will resource the roll out of Te Kotahitanga programme to all secondary schools.


  • Will work in partnership with sector stakeholders and some of New Zealand’s biggest companies to establish a New Zealand skills strategy covering areas such as workplace literacy skills matching.
  • Will ensure that all teachers are provided with the opportunity to improve their own digital literacy and make the most of technology in their teaching.
  • Will protect Pacific identity by promoting cultural literacy with youth.
  • Will reinstate the goals for Pacific literacy, research, and bilingualism in the Pacific Education Plan which were removed by the National Government in 2009.


  • Will improve the rates of literacy among Māori and Pacific children so they are comparable with non-Māori.
  • Will make Te Reo Māori, Māori history and culture core curriculum subjects in all schools up to year 10.
  • Will partner with iwi and employers to provide more scholarship and internship opportunities for whānau and to provide better connections for students to their tribal identity, culture and language.


  • Will support literacy skills as a part of the young serious offender classification.
  • Will provide more information throughout the year about how kids are progressing literacy skills at a much more granular level – information accessible online.
  • Will ensure all children have the opportunity to learn a second language at primary school, if they choose to.
  • Will invest $160 million over four years to provide schools and Communities of Learning with more expert language teachers, language specialists and online resources.

     NZ First

  • Will restore funding for Te Kotahitanga
  • Will strengthen school entry assessment tools and practices that teachers and school leaders use to identify those students most at risk in literacy.
  • Will establish an early intervention staffing component for identified new entrants at risk in literacy across all schools with initial priority being one full-time teaching equivalent for every U1 to U3 school ($50m : 992 schools as at December 2013).
  • Is committed to a more holistic view of adult and community education.
  • Will invest $2 million in direct support for Digital Literacy Training for older New Zealanders via SeniorNet.

     TOP (The Opportunities Party)

  • Will deliver free full-time early childhood education.

  • Will delay national standards until year 6 and delay NCEA until student’s final year of school where they will have the choice of sitting NCEA Level 1, 2 or 3.

  • Will review the tertiary sector to ensure it is keeping up with the need for lifelong learning.



About Literacy Aotearoa Literacy Aotearoa is a national organisation of adult literacy providers and a leading commentator on literacy issues in Aotearoa (New Zealand). It delivers a range of programmes to meet the needs of adults who want to improve their literacy, numeracy and communication skills. It has a membership of 35 member providers (Ngā Poupou) who deliver training and adult literacy services in 47 locations throughout the country. Last year its 581 active tutors delivered 257,393 programme hours to increase the literacy, numeracy and language skill levels of 7,446 New Zealanders. It maintains alliances and works closely with iwi, tertiary education institutions adult and community education providers and government agencies.

Media contacts

Bronwyn Yates
Te Tumuaki, Literacy Aotearoa
+64 21 826 622 

Allan Botica
Botica Butler Raudon
+64 21 400 500