Cellphones will be banned in all New Zealand schools, conservative Prime Minister Christopher Luxon announced Friday, as his fledgling government seeks to improve the country’s dwindling literacy rates.
New Zealand’s schools used to have some of the highest literacy rates in the world, but levels of reading and writing have fallen to the point where some researchers fear a “crisis” in the classroom.
Luxon declared that he would ban cell phones in schools within his first 100 days in office, a policy that has had mixed results in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
According to Luxon, the change would reduce disruptive behaviour and help students focus.
“We are going to ban phones across New Zealand in schools. We want our kids to learn and we want our teachers to teach,” he said.
Researchers from New Zealand charity Education Hub warned of a “literacy crisis” in 2022, finding more than one-third of 15-year-olds could barely read or write.
“That something must be done to address the distressingly low literacy rates in Aotearoa New Zealand is clear,” they wrote.
Luxon’s conservative government, which took office on Monday, has been dogged by controversy in its first week.
Doctors warned that the country was on the verge of a public health “tragedy” after the government abruptly repealed world-leading tobacco control measures aimed at prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2008.
Luxon has also agreed to restart offshore oil and gas exploration, effectively repealing one of former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s signature climate change policies.