Predictably enough, Labour has tried to make a mountain out of the Government’s announcement of funding cuts in the Education Ministry. According to its education spokesman, Trevor Mallard, these will harm education quality because there will be less research and less teacher and curriculum development.
In reality, he is talking about a molehill. The ministry has been asked to make just $25 million in savings by 2012-13. That is a surprisingly small amount, which is being sought in the right area, rather than at what used to be called the chalkface.
All government-funded organisations are being told to cut costs because of the tough economic climate. Cue cries of anguish and alarm.
The key to achieving the savings without fulfilling the grim forecasts of these critics lies in targeting areas that will not disrupt a sector’s core responsibilities. Commendably, this is what the Government is seeking to achieve in both education and health, two of the leading recipients of its spending.
Labour has never met a spending cut they didn’t oppose.
The Dominion Post swipes at NZUSA:
The University Students Association is to be applauded for its egalitarian instincts. They accord with the New Zealand ethos.
However, the association, long a training ground for Labour Party apparatchiks, would enhance its credibility if it spent less time bleating about the cost of university studies and more focusing on the quality of the education on offer.
It makes a habit of engaging its mouth before its brain. The most recent instance occurred on Tuesday when co-presidents David Do and Pene Delaney issued a statement condemning new Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, the Government’s tyre-kicker-in-chief, for saying that from 2012 a percentage of the state funding provided to tertiary institutions will be linked to their academic performance and for adding that he’d also like to restrict student loans to students who pass their courses.
David Do is a former Chair of Princes St Labour.
Here is a newsflash for the association: the quality of the education available to its members, and students at other tertiary institutions, has gradually been eroded over the past couple of decades by underfunding and a bums-on seats-policy that rewards institutions according to the number of students enrolled rather than their performance.
The Government does not have a magic pool of money into which it can dip to make up the shortfall. It is effectively borrowing $200 million a week to maintain existing levels of public services, debt that will eventually have to be made good by the the association’s members and generations yet unborn.
If improvements are to be made to the system, the money has to come from within the existing tertiary education budget. Mr Joyce is doing exactly what the association should be imploring him to do – looking for poor-quality institutions and courses so that money can be redirected from them to institutions and courses that provide value for money.
He is proposing to do the same with students. Good on him. Every student who is not turning up to class, repeatedly failing or using a student allowance or loan to subsidise a lifestyle that has nothing to do with study is wasting money that could otherwise be used to provide a better education for students motivated to make the most of their opportunities.
The association should forget about trying to score political points and focus on advancing its members’ real interests. Students should ask themselves whether they would rather buy a clapped-out jalopy with a wound-back odometer for $25,000 or a modern, reliable warranted vehicle for $35,000.
Mr Joyce knows the answer to that question. It is to buy a quality vehicle that will stand the test of time. The same holds true for education. Forget cheap; think quality.
A wonderful editorial.
Graven on a tablet within the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York is the poem with the famous words “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”. The latest immigration policy development in New Zealand is somewhat different to this. The new temporary retirement immigration category is more a case of New Zealand being given and welcoming elderly migrants, provided they have enough money to invest here.
Under this scheme foreigners aged at least 66 years can move to New Zealand on an initial two-year permit if they have good health and character, agree to invest $750,000 here, have an income of $60,000 and $500,000 worth of assets.
By international standards the financial criteria for coming here are not huge, which might encourage a reasonable uptake. But even if this did occur the amount which must be invested is also comparatively modest, which suggests that the scheme might not make the contribution to economic growth which the Government hopes would occur.
Rather than encouraging the wealthy elderly to come to our shores, the focus should be on promoting New Zealand as a migration destination for younger people with skills. This would help address this nation’s serious skills shortage and contribute more meaningfully to economic growth.
I don’t think it is an either-or. One can encourage both.
A rare piece of good news emerged for beleaguered ratepayers this week: the Otago Regional Council draft annual plan shows no increase in the general rate. The ORC chairman points out it is a draft budget only, but nevertheless, how refreshing. Why can’t other councils do the same?
Indeed. Most businesses have had to contain costs, as have most households. Even the central Government is doing so. Local Government should follow.