Espiner on Maori and Tertiary Education

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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