Adult Community Education Benefits

February 23rd, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Three good posts on Adult Community Education. First Matt Nolan at TVHE fisks a PWC report:

In a report the is often used to justify ACE spending, the net benefit of adult community education (for 409,000) was stated to be between $4.8bn and $6.3bn annually – giving a total return of $54-$72 per $1 invested (see page 48).  Wow, really – if I could get that sort of return I would be investing in adult community education for sure.

A 50:1 to 70:1 return on every dollar spent is of course beyond implausible. I am surprised PWC allowed their name to be associated with such a nonsense report.

Bill English was quoted as saying that on the basis of the report “we would spend $10 billion on adult and community education and would have an economy that is twice the size it currently is”

Nolan looks at how they have mixed up public and private benefits:

Now the factors that are policy relevant are NOT private benefits – these help determine the market price.  They are benefits that stem from some third party, uninvolved in the transaction, gaining some benefit from the individual taking an adult community course.  And they are not “fiscal externalities” (ht Offsetting Behaviour).  So the policy relevant factors are:

  • Increase in direct income:  No
  • Savings in government benefits:  No
  • Marginal increase in individual income:  No
  • Increase in income from self-confidence:  No
  • Reduction in family violence:  No
  • Savings for health:  No
  • Savings from crime reduction:  Potentially, partially
  • Increased community involvement by individual:  No
  • Higher income taxes:  No

So eight of the nine benefits are private, not public. The one public benefit is a possible reduced crime rate. But PWC have assumed that anyone doing an ACE course instantly has a 50% less chance of committing a crime. Yep – attending one Moroccan cooking course, and you are 50% less crime likely.

Dave Guerin at the very good Education Directions blog looks at the future of ACE:

The ACE market will be reshaped, rather than destroyed, because there is so much demand for such education. In 2008 there were 140,000 ACE students (EFTS unavailable)  in schools and 78,000 ACE students (4,000 EFTS) in TEIs (MOE). Enrolment numbers have been boosted by significant government subsidies and by the availability at schools of physical and business infrastructure to run community education programmes, but people still want this type of education. The subsidies are now largely gone and many schools have dropped their programmes, but there are new opportunities.

In the absence of nationwide coverage by subsidised school providers, I expect that private ACE co-ordinators will spring up. They won’t get the same administrative  support from schools, but equally they won’t be bound by the collective employment agreement or be treated as an add-on to the school’s main business. There are still plenty of empty school rooms at night to rent at low cost too. Prior to schools getting so involved in community education, there was a thriving private market in ACE-type courses and I would expect many of the previous school-based tutors to explore new models. There are bound to be several viable models out there for ACE delivery.

If ACE does produce such huge private benefits as 50:1, there will indeed remain great demand for ACE courses – even if one has to pay say $50 for it.

Eric Cramption looks into where the nonsense about a 50% reduction in crime rate comes from, if you do an ACE course. He finds:

So folks taking adult ed courses are assumed to have a 50% reduction in their chances of committing a crime. PWC cites a 1999 working paper as evidence; a 2004 AER piece by the same author has the crime reduction associated with high school graduation as being less than half that figure (14-26%). This latter study uses a far more cautious identification strategy: changes in minimum age of dropping out of school as instrument for completion rates. And note that the numbers cited are for HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, not for taking a night course in Indian cooking.

Remind me to never get PWC to do a report, if I want it taken credibly.

Thank God for the Internet where we can get some solid analysis of these ever growing number of crappy reports, justifying whatever the commissioning party has asked for.

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Labour’s priorities

November 9th, 2009 at 12:56 am by David Farrar

We have a $10 billion deficit, and Labour still wants to spend even more. And Chris Hipkins details the priorities:

I visited a Day Skipper course for people who were interested in boating. Now this does fit the definition of a hobby course, but it’s actually providing a valuable public service. Which would you rather see the taxpayer subsidising, a cheap course or more search and rescue operations when amateur boaties get themselves into trouble?

My visits to a floral arranging course, a stained glass window course and a Spanish course all reinforced the tremendous social value night classes bring to the wider community.

I’m speechless. Floral arranging. Stained glass windows. Spanish. How to be a day skipper. This is what Labour wants to borrow and tax more money from workers for.

Chris did also mention a painter doing an excel course. While that is laudable, there is a sensible business imperative for people in business to take such courses regardless of taxpayer subsidies.

I continue to be staggered at the judgement of Labour MPs who highlight stained glass window courses and floral arranging courses as part of their campaign. I almost wish there was an election in a few weeks, just so one could have creative fun doing TV ads showing what Labour’s priorities are. Hell given time over summer, maybe we can shoot our own ads.

Hat Tip: Gooner at No Minister

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Protesting against no more free silk scarf painting classes

October 21st, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

About 70 people, including 20 Opposition MPs, protested outside Parliament yesterday over the cuts to adult and community education funding. …

In May’s Budget, funding for adult community education was cut from $16 million to $3 million, with the Government saying it paid for hobby courses. There has been intense criticism of the cut, with opponents saying courses will be slashed.

Of course if people wish to still learn how to dye their silk scarves, or learn Moroccan cooking, they can still do so. But they will pay for the course, instead of forcing everyone else to fund it for them.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said that with the recession the Government was focusing on foundation skills such as literacy, numeracy and language courses.

Focusing on literacy and numeracy instead of Moroccan cooking. What is the world coming to.

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Small on Goff

September 10th, 2009 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

The Labour Party in conference assembled meets in Rotorua tomorrow (9/11 for anyone who can think of a tasteful metaphor) facing a suite of unique challenges.

The first is how to send a message loud and clear to an electorate barely listening that the opposition has drawn a line under the Clark-Cullen years. The second – and equally difficult one – is how to turn the career politician known for 28 years as Phil Goff into a real human being.

Their problem is nothing can change the fact Goff has been a career politician, who entered Parliament when John Key was a 20 year old student dating Bronagh.

He joined Labour at 16, did the usual stint as a student, a unionist and a lecturer and other than that has been an MP for almost all of his adult life.

Expect a significant and symbolic announcement in Mr Goff’s keynote speech on Sunday that will distance his leadership from the former government’s agenda in areas that got up the electorate’s collective nose.

Excellent. That would be sensible.

If Labour was to follow the mirror route on the Left it would need first to attack the non-vote, the grumpies who no longer have Winston Peters representing them in the House and perhaps some Greens to shore up Labour’s numbers. That – rather than a move to emulate National too soon – would give the party the numbers to present a threat and offer itself as a credible alternative government. Only then would it move back towards the centre.

If that is the right way forward, then the question remains whether Mr Goff, who is on the conservative end of the party, is the ideal leader.

He is their only viable leader at the moment and, if he succeeds in reconnecting with more conservative blue-collar (and brown) voters who left Labour for National (or swelled the ranks of the non- voters in 2008) then he may yet find an alternative road to the same end.

But on the other side are a popular prime minister, an economy showing signs of life and a seemingly Teflon Government. The odds are stacked heavily against him.

Labour’s biggest problem is still how out of touch they are with ordinary New Zealanders.

At Backbenchers last night, I was seated next to a prominent gentleman from the Far North. Wallace Chapman was talking about the cuts to adult community education, and giving examples such as cake decorating and Moroccan cooking. The young Labour supporters in the room were screaming out “shame” to the news that that taxpayers no longer fund cake decorating courses. The Far North gentleman observed how people in Wellington live in such a different world to the rest of the country.

I could guarantee you the vast majority of New Zealanders are not upset or shamed that they no longer fund cake decorating courses and Moroccan cooking classes, but are probably aghast we used to fund them. The only ones upset are those who used to do the courses or provide them.

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