Roger Kerr: The man, the message, the strategy. What impact on teachers and education in New Zealand?

Bronwen Lichtenstein
Vol 12, Number 1-2, p.85
In 1986, Roger Kerr was appointed Executive Director of the New Zealand Business Roundtable and set about transforming a somewhat moribund organisation into the aggressive agency for reform that it is today. Since then, Kerr, as a neo-liberal, has sought 'market' reforms in many areas of New Zealand economic and social life. However, he appears to have singled out education for particular attention. To this end, he has written a number of papers and commissioned several reports from overseas experts in an effort to implement wide-ranging changes to the New Zealand education system. For many educators, Kerr's focus on the education system (and teachers in particular) has become little more than a vendetta which threatens their personal and professional well-being. Many teachers are baffled by the intensity of his attacks. Some of the questions raised in consequence of this vendetta are \"Why are teachers being made scapegoats in the arena of neo-liberal reforms to education?\", and \"How successful might Roger Kerr be in his goal to radically change the delivery of education in New Zealand?\" While it may not be possible to answer the last question, I will attempt to demonstrate how Roger Kerr, as a dynamic and single-minded ideologue, has successfully garnered the energies and ideas of neo-liberal writers and activists in New Zealand and elsewhere, to the extent that this collective influence has considerably shaped the debate about education in New Zealand. In so doing, I will profile Roger Kerr, set his ideas and the NZBR in context, then analyse the ways in which his personal style and dedication to neoliberal ideology have combined to promulgate his ideas about education reform to a degree which may impact on education in New Zealand for years to come.