Government ministers have made extraordinary claims about education in Parliament this week.

It started with Housing Minister Nick Smith saying that falling levels of home ownership, particularly for Maori and Pasikifa adults, are due to poor education.

Education Minister Hekia Parata then answered a series of questions from MP Jenny Salesa, and dug herself in deeper.

Parata claimed that under National, education levels are rising, citing NCEA figures. However, PISA and other reputable international measures tell a quite different story. She then said that Maori and Pasifika education levels are rising under National, although the programmes that have led to rising Maori and Pasifika education levels, such as Te Kotahitanga, were developed and implemented under Helen Clark’s government.

She then said that 26-33-year-olds who are struggling now were educated under Labour and therefore it was Labour’s fault.

This really is a grasping at straws. There is now a mountain of reports, books, research that makes it very clear what underlies our declining education statistics – growing inequality.

The ministers’ statements are both bizarre and a sign of growing desperation.

But, more to the point, it is a great tragedy that education, where intelligent leadership is desperately needed, should once again be used as a political football.