A must read editorial

The Dominion Post editorial on the education sector is a must read.

The editorial concludes that the education sector looks like a hospital emergency ward, pointing out:

* Te Wananga O Aotearoa on life support
* The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is reeling from two damning inquiries
* The Education Ministry has been implicated in the scholarship debacle
* The Tertiary Education Commission is under fire for its oversight of the wananga and funding of “sub-degree” courses.

With regard to the latter, they report that between 1999 and 2003, the number of students enrolled in sub-degree courses increased from 165,000 to a staggering 750,000. Some offered nothing more than a sing-along to Maori lessons, twilight golf or diving practice in Tonga for non-existent jobs. Students were recruited at shopping malls and burger bars and lured by the promise of free computers and mobile phones. But it took till 2004 for the Government to curb the growth of community education, the most frequently abused category of sub-degree courses.

The editorial concludes:

At some point, ministers have to take responsibility for what is happening on their watch. The problems in the education system cannot be explained simply as the doings of a handful of poor administrators.

Ministers have taken their eyes off the ball. Institutions have been allowed to spend vast sums of public money without adequate scrutiny.

Mr Mallard has admitted that he and Mr Maharey both had concerns about the wananga before becoming part of the Government in 1999. At that point, the wananga was receiving $4 million of government funding. Last year, it received $239 million.

Given their earlier concerns about “excessive growth, uneven levels of quality assurance, and management and governance capability”, it beggars belief that they did not act earlier. No organisation can grow that fast without problems.

That it was able to is an indictment on all concerned.

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