Vo­ca­tional surgery needed

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

Our vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is in des­per­ate need of surgery. Four of New Zealand’s 16 In­sti­tutes of Tech­nol­ogy and Poly­tech­nics (ITPs) are ef­fec­tively un­der gov­ern­ment re­ceiver­ship, and oth­ers are re­port­edly on the brink.

“It’s time to re­set the whole sys­tem and fun­da­men­tally re­think the way we view vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, and how it’s de­liv­ered,” said Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Chris Hip­kins. “What we are propos­ing is am­bi­tious, but it needs to be. We can­not con­tinue to tweak the sys­tem know­ing that the model is fun­da­men­tally bro­ken.”

Some­thing must be done, but the gov­ern­ment is go­ing too far. Their so­lu­tion: cen­tralise ev­ery­thing. Com­bine all ITPs and In­dus­try Train­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tions (ITOs) into one gi­gan­tic vo­ca­tional sys­tem. The sec­tor has a mere six weeks to pro­vide feed­back on the pro­posal, hardly fair on those in­volved.

Few would ar­gue against the need for change, but rather than this ex­treme so­lu­tion, per­haps we could look at those who are thriv­ing in the cur­rent sys­tem and cre­ate a frame­work to pro­mote more of that. There are some shin­ing lights, like Otago Polytech­nic and the South­ern In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy: “well-gov­erned, well­man­aged, and liv­ing sus­tain­ably within their means while still de­liv­er­ing high­qual­ity and rel­e­vant ed­u­ca­tion,” as one re­port put it. They were promised that well-per­form­ing in­sti­tu­tions wouldn’t be im­pacted, but this seems rather op­ti­mistic given the sever­ity of the changes.

The Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tional Com­mis­sion’s com­pre­hen­sive re­view ac­knowl­edged the ben­e­fits of a sim­pli­fied and co­her­ent sys­tem, but also the risks, namely the “cre­ation of a gi­ant, un­wieldy mo­nop­oly with no real com­pe­ti­tion and poor re­spon­sive­ness to the de­mand-side; and the risk of cat­a­strophic high­stakes sys­tem fail­ure if the en­tity did not de­liver qual­ity.” They list South Aus­tralia’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a “cau­tion­ary tale;” their cen­tralised sys­tem lost qual­ity as­sur­ance ac­cred­i­ta­tion, leav­ing the state tem­po­rar­ily with­out cour­ses in plumb­ing, con­struc­tion, com­mer­cial cook­ing, hair­dress­ing and aged care.

In­stead, the Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended Tu¯ Kahikatea, the Strength of a Net­work, a cen­tralised en­tity that would help co­or­di­nate and sup­port the ITPs as a net­work, but also pre­serve the unique con­tri­bu­tions each can make. The min­is­ter con­sid­ered this idea “con­vo­luted with a num­ber of mov­ing parts, and many pre­vi­ously un­tried ar­range­ments.” Where he sees con­vo­lu­tion, I see lo­cal vari­a­tions and re­sponses to lo­cal needs. And while there are some un­tried as­pects of Tu¯ Kahikatea, at least if they fail, the whole sys­tem won’t go down with them.

It is likely that the gov­ern­ment’s so­lu­tion “will pro­vide sta­bil­ity and cer­tainty into the fu­ture,” but it is un­likely to be dy­namic and re­spon­sive to the changes in the econ­omy and nu­ances of lo­cal in­dus­tries and re­gions. Some­times se­ri­ous surgery is re­quired, but some clin­i­cal pre­ci­sion with our vo­ca­tional in­sti­tutes will go a long way.

" . . . rather than this ex­treme so­lu­tion, per­haps we could look at those who are thriv­ing in the cur­rent sys­tem and cre­ate a frame­work to pro­mote more of that."

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.