Espiner on Maori and Tertiary Education

June 22nd, 2009 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs:

None of which stops Sharples from trying, however, and nor should it. I know that he should as an Associate Education Minister toe the Government line, but personally I expect Sharples to be a passionate advocate for his people. As long as Key doesn’t actually agree to this hare-brained idea, I’m happy for Sharples to push it.

For one thing, it’s good to have a debate about the place of education in our society, and remind ourselves that it’s pretty much the only thing that is going to get us out of the economic backwater in which New Zealand now resides.

Education is part of it, yes.

And it’s true that participation statistics in are appalling, and something needs to be done about it.

They are not appalling. They are in fact far superior to any other ethnic group in NZ. I blogged a few days ago on this, and the Maori participation rate is 50% higher than the Pakeha rate. Possibly Colin meant to refer to university participation rates only, but the terms are not interchangeable.

And even the university participation rate is not “appalling” – it is 80% of the Pakeha rate. I think Colin is too used to just assuming Maori health and education statistics are “appalling”, without checking them out.

I just think Sharples has the wrong end of the stick. There’s little point letting more Maori into university if they are simply going to fail.

Here I agree.

A better question might be why so few Maori make the grade to get into university in the first place. And I suspect that can be traced all the way back through the school system to early childhood and the child’s parents. I’m sure Sharples would argue that is all the system’s fault, and perhaps part of it is. Though I think Maori could probably shoulder some of the blame as well.

And here I absolutely agree.

As I say, though, the debate is a needed one. Just recently Canterbury University vice-chancellor Rod Carr had a good serve at the Prime Minister for cutting funding in real terms to universities and polytechnics, and I think this issue is going to become a hot topic in the months to come.

Personally I would rather the Government put the additional $750 million it shovels into the health black hole every year into tertiary education instead. I reckon it would pay huge dividends.

But here I disagree. If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.

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47 Responses to “Espiner on Maori and Tertiary Education”

  1. Trevor Mallard (245 comments) says:

    DPF But here I disagree. If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.

    Isn’t it ironic that Tolleys first cut was about $250m over 4 years out of ECE, followed by 25% of the professional development budget which in recent years has become much more focussed on literacy and numeracy and chopped the Extending High Standards Across Schools programme which again often had aiteracy focus.

    Bad educationally. Not flash politics either.

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  2. Chthoniid (2,029 comments) says:

    Tertiary education in NZ has a number of basic challenges.

    First, salaries have lagged behind the rest of the world, which makes recruiting and retaining the most productive staff harder.
    Second, universities have costs that rise faster than inflation. Computer systems have to be upgraded more frequently to keep with trends elsewhere. Subscriptions to databases, journals and chemicals (for labs) has to be paid in forex. There has been a major leap in these costs recently.

    In the good old days you could get away with referring students to some dusty journals kept in stacks in the bottom of the library. You could give a lecture that was hand-written on 2 over-head slides. Now it’s all powerpoint presentations, fancy graphics and links to databases in three continents.

    Third, the admin overhead has crept up significantly (inflated by the PBRF in NZ). The Times Higher Education Supplement noted recently that academics (in the UK) now spend around 50% of their time on admin stuff. When I started in the early 90s, it was around 20%. I don’t think NZ will be all that different now from the UK.

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  3. senzafine (455 comments) says:

    But here I disagree. If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.

    Agreed. Giving young children the gift of education, showing them that they are as good as anyone else is something that will stay woith them forever.

    My daughter was struggling and refused to believe she was smart. As a year one, we enrolled her with kip Mcgrath, and the transformation was nothing less than spectacular.

    She’s gone from bottom of the class to top. And she has desire and hunger for learning.

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  4. Chthoniid (2,029 comments) says:

    It’s a shame we pissed that money away on a useless trainset when we could have put it into education instead, right Trevor?

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  5. Trevor Mallard (245 comments) says:

    Pita Sharples has being trying for at least eight years to take funding for Maori kids in schools away from boards of trustees and give it to a Maori education Authority. it parallels Turia’s approach in social services. Unless we want a totally separate education system for Maori it can’t work. Imagine 2,600 schools negotiating contracts with the MEA sometimes for one or two Maori pupils. I think admin costs in education are already too high. Sharples approach would double them.

    And there has been some progress made on Maori participation in ECE, literacy in primary schools and involvement in secondary education esp Te Kotahitanga which Sharples is extending.

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  6. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.

    Come on. You’d give tax cuts.

    [DPF: Tax cuts are not spending. This was a debate about transferring spending from health to education. A separate debate is about the overall quantum of spending and taxation]

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  7. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Why is Sharples so concerned about upping Maori Tertiary ed. numbers when our pre-schooling education is such a mess? All the research points out that how prepared a child is when they get to school is the major indicator of educational outcome. I guess only he can answer that- but I suspect it is more about politics than anything else.

    DPF and Trevor are both right on this one, how weird is it to say that?

    The Maori Party like ACT are just another problem that the government just does not need.

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  8. Ryan Sproull (7,059 comments) says:

    I’m sure Sharples would argue that is all the system’s fault, and perhaps part of it is. Though I think Maori could probably shoulder some of the blame as well.

    I would be interested in hearing what this means.

    In which way is it the system’s fault, and in which way is it the fault of Maori, and what is the difference between the two?

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  9. alex Masterley (1,498 comments) says:

    A problem that ECE is about to face is the previous governments decision to impose qualification criteria on opperators of ECE facilities. this means that many experienced people, as mentioned in the Herald this morning will be forced out of the areas because they do not have the appropriate certificate.
    quite frankly who-ever in the MOE came up with this scheme needs to be put in stocks.

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  10. JC (932 comments) says:

    I think the under appreciated point is that Sharples and co represent a group of people who look much more like the British working class than a racial grouping.. a social subset of the main group, if you like.

    If they were to concentrate on improving the educational lot of this subset rather than take it down the racial path I think they’d have more success. Racial education with this group is a cul de sac of Whanaga and low level tertiary achievement.. to say nothing of the poor results in primary and secondary education, and thats because it isn’t a particularly unique group in terms of race.. nothing like the Chinese which is quite distinctly a racial group.

    Why is Henare failing at school when he is just 1/8th Maori, has a Pakeha father/mother, speaks no Maori and has little if anything of Maori culture. Is it because he’s Maori or because he’s from a family with low educational standards, low expectations, parent(s) who party, live hard and rough and mix with others of the same inclination?

    We already know the answer.. Henare is failing because of his parent(s) lifestyle and lack of genuine care, not because of race, and about all Sharples and co. can do effectively is demand more of him and his parents. That the politicos are not making these demands indicates they are more interested in building a fake constituency based on a racial excuse than providing real remedies.

    JC

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  11. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    I think that Peter Sharple is wrong here. Everyone should be able to get into University thru the entrance at the front gate (via excellent academic achievements), rather than getting in by jumping over the fence simply because of some racial quota. As a minority myself, the idea that everyone should be represented or have a chance to get some tertiary education, should not a free ticket fro Universities to relinquish their high standards of entry criteria, which is exactly what Mr. Sharple is trying to lower . I am aware that Auckland Medical School has an annual quota for Maori & Pacific Islanders, which they deliberately have lowered the entry level (compared to Europeans NZders) as to encourage Maori & Pacific Islanders to enroll. The reason is that Maori & Pacific Islanders usually do not achieve the marks that is required to enter thru the front gate of the medical school (like everyone else), and this is why this policy of jumping over the fence to med school had been placed in there to give equal opportunities. Such opportunities should be given to anyone based on academic merits & achievements rather than guilty feeling of under-representation based on race.

    I have urged my brother to change his GP in South Auckland because I found out recently that this GP entered the medical school via the Pacific Island special quota, where he completed his MBChB in 11 years as opposed to a minimum of 7. It was obvious that he was struggling (repeated in some years) during his study. There has been numerous complaints about this GP, about prescribing wrong drugs or misdiagnosing certain treatable symptoms. For this reason alone, which prompted me to encourage my brother to change his GP, even if it is more expensive. I have heard that the medical council (or some regulatory body like that is investigating this GP for malpractices). It is obvious that this GP should have never been admitted to med school in the first place if he had to be admitted via the rigorous standards of the front gate entrance. I am in favor for having more Pacific Island physicians out there , but is should be based on academic merits rather than based on race and this is why Peter Sharple is wrong here.

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  12. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    I think Colin is too used to just assuming Maori health and education statistics are “appalling”, without checking them out.

    Just Colin?

    [DPF: Not at all - most people I am sure assume the same]

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  13. Christopher (425 comments) says:

    If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.

    If I had $750 Million to spend I’d by myself a Lamborghini Gallardo, an Italian supermodel and a big black jet with my name on the side.

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  14. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Why are Maori the only ones who blame failure on being Maori?

    The rest of us see success and failure as being a host of factors, most of them individual, but not many jump to the conclusion that their race and bugger all to do with it.

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  15. big bruv (13,552 comments) says:

    Trev

    Nine years of Labour and we still need to spend $750 million on early education, are you admitting that your time in power was an abysmal failure?.

    Why not just put the onus on all those Wainui parents to spend a bit of time educating the kids they created?, no doubt I am paying for the bastards through the DPB or working for families, why not link the DPB, Dole and WFF on academic achievement and attendance?

    Or is that a bit much to expect from the low life who vote for you?

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  16. Jack5 (4,819 comments) says:

    DPF was on the button with:”… If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.”

    I think our system is distorted to the high end. We have put too much emphasis on university education, as illustrated by our taking subjects such as social work into universities.

    Really first-class education from pre-school till the end of secondary school then streaming into universities for a minority and polytechnics where the standard is set by private institutions would lift NZ far higher than the present system.

    We should look at other countries of educational excellence such as Germany. The way it integrates vocational education between on-the-job training and polytechnics offers a promising path. Ironically, NZ vocational education used to be more like this three or four decades ago.

    Look at the results of our intellectual-parvenu obsession with university education. Do we have better accountants because they don’t work at accounting offices while studying part-time? Do we have better social workers because they can spend years on borrowed money gaining Ph. Ds in flaky social “science” subjects? Do we have better nurses because they are now academically oriented? Have we helped agriculture by diluting our world-leading agriculture universities with greenie-environmental courses and letting them duplicate more general courses available at other NZ universities?

    A core problem seems to me that those who run the present system also run the Labour Party. Am I right in thinking that even Trevor Mallard is a former teacher? Because of its political power, Labour needs reform before the education system can reform. Either that or Labour dies out or is absorbed into the Key consensus clan.

    The only hope for quick radical change I can see lies in Sir Roger Douglas’s voucher system, and leftist NZ lacks the bottle to try this.

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  17. Neil (571 comments) says:

    I believe that an amalgam of ideas is necessary to break the maori education “trap”.
    Personally believe that working with parents and others lifting their attitudes and trying to break the “anti-education” factor so strong with young maoris at the 11-17 year old level.
    Rural and rural towns simply do not have the roll models to appeal to bright maori youngsters. Rather the spread of gangs and the hopelessness of so many of those people has fed the boiler of youth discontent.
    Somehow we must break this discontent at about the intermediate school age level. They can get on the wrong track then with the gang,drug and crime areas.
    Just providing a simple solution, like open entry, is quite wrong. Advancement takes long term effort but when achieved is worthwhile.

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  18. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    Excuses Excuses Excuses and when they run blame Whitey and his colonial forebears.

    Unless and until individuals are required to take responsibility for their own actions and parents are made accountable for raising their children in a manner that is acceptable to the majority of the society nothing will change and nothing will improve.

    Toughen up grow a spine and stop blaming the good parents.

    If the bad parents cant or wont come up to standard take the kids of them and give them to people who can prove they will do the job.

    Oh and sterilise and castrate the useless ones at the same time.

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  19. paradigm (507 comments) says:

    Howard the duck says:

    DPF But here I disagree. If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.

    The idea of improving early childhood education has some merit, but an adjustment to the syllibus rather than just throwing money at the problem is probably a smarter idea. With reference to Maori education in particular, I would suggest that an early introduction to science would do much to arrest the anti-intellectual attutude that tends to prevail amongst Maori students. This can be done pretty cheaply: iron filings in a perspex box + bar magnets to show magnetism, a few batteries + coil of wire around a nail for electromagnetism etc. Let the kids play with them and ask them why it works, then give an explanation. The important thing at that level is to cultivate an interest in the subject, so when they get to secondary school that interest remains and they choose Physics and Calculus instead of “recreational PE” and “wagging”.

    Improving numeracy and literacy at primary school also has some merit. To that end its good to see some assessment of numeracy and literacy introduced. However if you really want to improve literacy, start teaching phonics in school again.

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  20. mummified (9 comments) says:

    A little off-topic, but was at a bar near the stadium on Saturday night, and who should turn up on the dance floor, but Pita Sharples. Not often you see that!

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  21. paradigm (507 comments) says:

    Too late for EDIT:
    Sorry DPF, didn’t see that was actually you who posted about $750M. Thought it was trevor’s comment as there were no speech marks or an indented quote.

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  22. mikh (33 comments) says:

    Trust politicians like Mr Mallard to think that money is the answer to the problem.

    Money is not the answer, Alan Duff was on the right track with his books for homes schemes.

    Polticians should encourage more self reliance and start weaning their constituents off government help, all of which encourages failure. Failures breed more failure.

    Pita Sharples has disappointed with his latest idea. I thought he was going to speak about the real reasons for maori lack of success.

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  23. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    alex Masterley (246) Vote: 2 1 Says:

    June 22nd, 2009 at 10:13 am
    A problem that ECE is about to face is the previous governments decision to impose qualification criteria on opperators of ECE facilities. this means that many experienced people, as mentioned in the Herald this morning will be forced out of the areas because they do not have the appropriate certificate.
    quite frankly who-ever in the MOE came up with this scheme needs to be put in stocks.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, the National Party is now in government, and they don’t seem too inclined to change this situation.

    Why is that? Are they lazy, or just incompetent?

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  24. alex Masterley (1,498 comments) says:

    MIIJ,
    I think it is none of the above.
    The ECE issue I identified is one of a number of Labor policy legacies that the government has been busy dealing with. Judging by comments made by Mrs Tolley it may get dealt with sooner rather than later.

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  25. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    1. Trevor sounds sensible. I must be thinking about it wrong. Did Tolley actually make these cuts, or is there something else going on? I recall a bunch of cuts in areas that were basically hobby learning for adults, is that what we’re talking about? In which case labelling it as literacy education is a bit rich – if we’re really off learning Spanish before we go on holiday.

    2. I seem to recall a quite authoritative study (by Treasury?) which showed that almost all of the different educational and life outcomes for Maori is explained by their socio-economic performance. That is to say, that poor Maori don’t have any worse outcomes than poor pakeha, it is just that Maori are disproportionately poor. Of course, we can go around the loop of asking why Maori are disproportionately poor, but certainly it does suggest that we don’t need a uniquely Maori answer to the problem.

    3. To the extent that someone has a good idea that will actually improve the situation, and it doesn’t involve just throwing money at it, I’m not fussed whether it is Maori targeted or otherwise targeted. My experience of social type problems is that more often than not the solution isn’t based around the process you’re using, who it’s targeted at, or any of that. It is based on the enthusiasm and talent of those who participate. If making it a Maori initiative gets enthusiasm, and access to talent that wouldn’t otherwise put time into it, then I’m all for it.

    4. With problems that are a cycle, the question is where do you access the cycle most easily / effectively / cost effectively. You’re poor, your kids aren’t ready to learn when they get to school, you live in a poor school district (which zoning doesn’t help by the way), you set low expectations, your children are more likely to be malnourished (a big correlation with learning success), you are more likely to abuse them. My mother, who was a teacher, always told me it wasn’t a teacher’s job to be parents to these kids, that it had to start in the home. The problem is, once we agree that the home isn’t in a position to start – what are you left with. We can at least have hope if we work with the teachers.

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  26. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    We have put too much emphasis on university education

    Interestingly Norway doesn’t have universities. Their govt provides qualified school leavers with funding at study at a university of their choice overseas. Not sure if this is limited to ‘approved’ universities but a Norwegian friend of mine is currently studying a Vic on this scheme… so Norway’s standards can’t be too high :)

    As an aside, our universities aren’t up to much according to QS World University Rankings. Only 1 on the top 100, 3 in the top 200.

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  27. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    “I thought he was going to speak about the real reasons for maori lack of success.”

    Sharples would never do that. He’s a member of a racist political party, whose only interest is to keep his unsophisticated clientele happy with facile remarks.

    Few Maori politicians have had the courage to call it like it really is, and stop blaming others for all Maori shortcomings. Sharples is NOT one of them.

    A backward-looking attitude, expressed by blaming everybody and refusing responsibility, may pay short-lived political dividends, but it’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, Maori leaders should to push ahead for change in treatment of their women and children, for an educational revolution to allow their youngsters to succeed.

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  28. maurieo (95 comments) says:

    Learning is for life, the most important lesson of all is learning how to learn and this can be done in a variety of mediums of which university is but one. While many champion student centered learning, results and outcomes indicate that this is not the case. Just as everyone has differing tastes in ice cream so it is with education. Learners (and that is all of us) should have a variety of options avialable to us so that we can make the choice best suited to our individual needs. Measuring successful learning outcomes by numbers of University degrees is not a particularly accurate way of measuring success. Success might be better measured by determining the number of learners who cannot meet basic levels of literacy and numeracy and trying to reduce their number with targeted programs. We are as they say only as strong as our weakest link.

    Recently I have been involved in a workbased training program which I believe has the potential to target learning where it is most needed. The actual skills that an individual has are assessed and documented using a variety of assessemnt methods. Individuals then need only to learn the new skills they dont have to achieve a qualification. While the benefits of this are obvious for the novice and school leaver, I see this as a concept that could be applied at a much higher level. I can recall a number of Professional Development workshops that I have been on and have received no recognition what so ever for the learning done. If Professional Development could be packaged and registered on the national framework we would more successful educational outcomes registered.

    If we were to quantify and record more of the learning that goes on in the NZ we could paint a far more accurate picture of the nations learning achievements.

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  29. Rex Widerstrom (5,327 comments) says:

    big bruv suggests:

    Why not just put the onus on all those Wainui parents to spend a bit of time educating the kids they created?… Or is that a bit much to expect from the low life who vote for you?

    Strewth BB, have you spent much time in Wainui? When I chaired the secondary school board I had to fight the Ministry for funding to upgrade the toilets in one block so we could re-open them. They’d been closed for years, apparently, because they were unfit for use. That’s just one snapshot of how badly things had been allowed to run down.

    It was only the amalgamation of the two secondary schools, with considerable lobbying from the board and the determination of the Minister (one Trevor Mallard) to give Wainui kids the kind of facility their Lower Hutt and Wellington state school counterparts had enjoyed for years that allowed us to create a school the community is now rightly proud of.

    Yes, the area has more than its quota of no-hopers but I found the vast majority of parents to be actively engaged in their children’s education. Certainly meetings on the amalgamation would pack the college hall (capacity around 600, from a total enrolment of about that number, so my best guess would be 50% of parents turned out).

    Back on the main topic… two things you quickly find when you become involved on a day-to-day basis with education:

    1. Pacific Island students are amongst the highest-achieving groups. It’s not unusual to find them figuring at prize givings in numbers well above their ratio in the student population. Yet they generally come from households with the same socio-economic deprivation as Maori at the same school. The difference seems to me – purely from a lay perspective – that most PI parents place a very high value on education and communicate that to their children.

    2. There are some astoundingly good teachers in the system, yet a school board is unable to recognise that fact and remunerate them accordingly. Nor can they get rid of dead wood. While nominally the teachers’ employers and, as parents, well placed to know who performs well and who doesn’t, the unions ensure the dead wood floats along at the same level as the rest.

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  30. sonic (2,818 comments) says:

    “getstaffed (3377)
    June 22nd, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    “Interestingly Norway doesn’t have universities”

    Apart from the University of Oslo ( (estb. 1811)
    University of Bergen (UiB) (Bergen) (estb. 1948)
    University of Tromsø ((estb. 1972)
    Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) (Trondheim) (estb. 1996; merger of the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH), estb. 1910 and the University of Trondheim, estb. 1968)
    Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) (Ås) (estb. 1859, university since 2005; previously the Agricultural University College at Ås)
    University of Stavanger (UiS) (Stavanger) (estb. 2005; previously the University College of Stavanger)
    University of Agder (UiA) (estb. 2007; previously Agder University College)”

    Do you ever think to check what you are going to say against the facts?

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  31. PaulL (5,983 comments) says:

    Rex, good comment.

    1. PI. I suspect part of this is self selecting. Many Islanders are immigrants – they got off their backsides and came to NZ. They’re poor now, but they are also to some extent those PI folks who had a bit more gumption than their peers – else they’d still be in the Islands. So they, like many immigrant populations around the world, are climbing the ladder. Maori didn’t immigrate here any time recently, they aren’t the same self selecting group who are impoverished largely because of their recent immigration. You see the same all around the world – many people in other countries find Maori to be very hard working, or NZers in general. Because they get the ones who decided to go see the world – the ones with a bit of get up and go.

    2. Don’t start me on teachers. One of the big failings of a monopoly system – it fails the consumers just as much as it fails the employees. If your employer is a monopoly employer you need a strong union to get any pay rises – you can’t just go to another employer, the market doesn’t take care of you. In a less government dominated system you’d see the better teachers rise to the top, as the different schools would compete to offer them better money. Don’t be holding your breath for this to change any time soon in NZ.

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  32. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    sonic, heh. well i trusted a friends explaination and didn’t think it essential to cross-check with wikipedia. thanks for doing some research. i wonder why their govt funds students to study overseas? there are 1000′s doing just that. perhaps Norway have a legacy uni capacity which hasn’t kept up with population increases. not sure. i’ll ask kristina.

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  33. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    There are some astoundingly good teachers in the system, yet a school board is unable to recognise that fact and remunerate them accordingly. Nor can they get rid of dead wood.

    I chair a school BOT and can attest to this statement.

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  34. cha (3,843 comments) says:

    I chair a school BOT and can attest to this statement.

    Like Norwegian universities?.

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  35. lilman (920 comments) says:

    Trevor,less usefull than a used-carsalesman,Trevor.

    When you were Minister of Education this was your legacy in our community.

    1.Closed over 14 schools in one province.

    2.Inceased our ratio of pupil/teacher from 1-18 ave to 1-33 ave in our school.

    3.Children travelling on bus for 1 hour 50mins to go 11kms was only 13mins before.

    4.Closed 5 swimming pools that were with schools ,even after community asked if they could take them over.

    5.Said it wasnt about money,but eventually said it was about money.

    6.Removed over 78 jobs in a rural area of over 80 kms.

    These are some of the points that we must deal with on a daily basis.
    Others such as less Maori teaching available,less funding for bussing children,less school exchanges with neighbouring schools.Community losing touch with school as distance and in some cases schools removed from districts.

    Thanks Trevor ,your a bloody champion.
    Next time you get an idea about whats good for our kids ,do us a favour,DONT!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  36. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    No cha, a school in wellington. have chaired the BOT for 4 years. if you know of a way to remove a poorly performing teacher then i’d like to hear it. i’d similarly like to know how we could boost remuneration for excellent teachers. you see we’ve had both.. and they’re remunerated identically. sure there are a few token gestures that can be made for the keepers(selection for training opportunities, preference for CRT – classroom release time etc) , but most of these are principal’s decisions and none are of any real financial consequence

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  37. reid (16,095 comments) says:

    The issue with good or poor education starts and ends with parental attitude, not resources at the coal-face.

    I would guess all of us by virtue of us being here on a political blog, have had a good education. Think back: why was that? I hypothesize that while sometimes it was extraordinary extemporaneous factors like a good teacher, mostly it was because we all had parents that cared about our education. They might not have been able to afford to send us to the best schools, but if not, they educated us in other ways by buying us books, takings us places, etc and so forth.

    Spot the common denominator.

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  38. reid (16,095 comments) says:

    A highly emotive long-term ad campaign driving home the message that the greatest gift a parent gives to their child is education, coupled with pointers to free resources helping those who don’t know why or how best to do that, would have the greatest possible effect.

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  39. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    reid – my wife has taught for 25 years and yes I’m biased but I’ll say that she’s second to none, putting in huge hours and working hard to engage students and their families in the learning process . she would agree with your assessment of the importance of parental support. she has 100′s of examples of this at work, but one recent case is she had a composite class earlier in the year, with two siblings (boy and girl). these two were, by her assessment, of similar average intellectual ability. one – the boy – is excelling, the other – the girl – is falling way behind. why? because their father and mother have low expectations of their daughter and very, very high expectations of their son. they help their son with reading, maths and project work while their daughter gets little help with even the most basic homework. trying to gently educate the father in particular has proven a dead end. needless to say cultural influences are at work here.

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  40. reid (16,095 comments) says:

    Thanks for that getstaffed.

    Beats me why others don’t get the simple equation, in particular, those in power whose job it is to do something about it.

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  41. vibenna (305 comments) says:

    You don’t have to scratch the surface very far to come up with anti-university rhetoric in New Zealand. The idea that we can be wealthy when we live the most remote inhabited place on earth is absurd enough. Couple that with the “we don’t need no university education” meme, and what do you get? Inexorable decline, I think.

    What’s more, University education is an international market. If New Zealand doesn’t want the academics, that’s okay. There’s an international shortage and other countries will happily hoover them up. The anti-university commentators also seem to have missed the fact that Universities have developed a superb export industry, from nothing, in short order. Export education is bigger than wine, bigger than film. Screwing the university sector also screws that export sector. It’s a competitive market, and New Zealand is increasing looking as if it is too precious to compete seriously.

    So who’s going to save the New Zealand economy then? The tooth fairy?

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  42. Jack5 (4,819 comments) says:

    Re vibenna’s 12.05 post…

    “Export education” does bring in foreign currency. However, it seems sometimes to attract foreign students by the prospect of being a door to NZ citizenship. That’s really a subsidy to education by other NZ industries who don’t have Open Sesame access to the Immigration Department. It might also mean less job choice for NZ kids who borrow heavily to fund their education.

    What would be the first choice of Asian (or other foreign) parents who want their kids to be educated in an English-language country if money is no object? The United States for sure. Then perhaps Canada, UK, and even Australia.

    To an outsider like me, the over-all benefits to NZ of the foreign-student industry are unclear. These students at universities and public schools benefit from taxpayer funded facilities, no matter what fees are charged. In private foreign education colleges, there are often hidden local subsidies. How many of these private language colleges have good libraries, for instance? Often you will find the students relying on ratepayer funded local libraries for study space and resources.

    What over-all non-economic benefit to NZ is the foreign-student industry? Some in Foreign Affairs used to like it and push it, and may still like it, because it was one of the few commerce fields lefty liberals could get their heads around. But how have we benefited from the tens of millions of education we provided Malaysians and Indonesians under the Colombo Plan, for example? We don’t earn a hell of a lot from them in exports. From them we import hundreds of thousands of tonnes of palm kernel as year as dairy cattle fodder. This is grown on plantations after tropical hardwood forests are clearfelled. A big Malaysian state-owned fund controls the privatised core of our old Ministry of Works. What big enterprises does NZ own in Malaysia.

    I can’t see what benefits have we had back from all that educational aid from the 1950s through to the 1980s.

    Regarding your point about “anti-university rhetoric”. The questions asked are not so much anti-university as whether universities should be smaller, better funded, with a tighter range of subjects than they have expanded to offer. It’s neither hostile nor anti-intellectual view to note how universities have broadened entry and widened teaching to fields such as social work and feminist studies.

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  43. Jack5 (4,819 comments) says:

    Re Getstaffed’s 10.03 post.

    That’s a sad situation you describe.

    Do you think the reverse is happening in most families in Western countries, however? What else can be causing the huge decline of boys’ success in education. It’s way past girls reaching 50:50 balance in schooling success.

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  44. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    [DPF: Tax cuts are not spending. ...]

    Quite right. But if your government had $750m to spend, I was suggesting you’d decide against spending it, and cut taxes instead.

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  45. vibenna (305 comments) says:

    Jack5 – economists estimate the contribution of export education to the economy at $2.3 billion. And to add to your point about the change of focus of universities, I think you have a point, but it is driven by government policy and the funding model as much as University choices.

    I do agree that there is much to be said for smaller, tightly focussed, high quality institutions. But there seems to be a strong correlation between size and performance, and the international trends in education are to get participation rates up over 30% of the youth cohort (say, 24-35). So, regrettably, I think visions of a small restricted university sector now belong to another era. Harvard takes in 800 MBA students a year. Even the Europeans are emphasizing size and high participation rates now. We have to follow.

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  46. bringbackthebiff (106 comments) says:

    All I can say is if there is a problem with maori educational achievement, it is no longer my fault as I live in Oz. In some ways finding someone to blame for our failures is easier than acknowledging our contribution, and moving on with greater purpose. The hand out and blame game has not lifted any level of achievement by any group in any field of endeavour ever.

    Some years ago Alan Duff made a good point, which relates to that made by DPF in regards to participation. This in a raw numbers sense is not the real issue. As Duff pointed out many in tertiary education are focused on studies relating to maori specific issues. Producing thousands of Phd’s in maori philosophy, whilst it is an achievement, is not all that likely to provide the type of useful qualifications that will enhance aunty helens knowledge economy in the long run.

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  47. Jack5 (4,819 comments) says:

    Vibenna: re your post…

    I think the economists’ estimates of the value of “export” education are about the same value as the reports we read of a X sports event bringing in Y millions to a town. Darts in a dartboard stuff. Let them work with net figures for a start.

    I think the drift to more university education for more people is on the turn. The recession has many of America’s universities scrambling for cash, and more important, parents will be increasingly seeking value for vocational education spending.

    Why do we need to wait two or three years for the trend to settle overseas? One of the advantages of a small economy, with one layer of government (no upper house, no state governments) is that we can act and change quickly.

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