Access to public education vital for future generations

Posted By TEU on Aug 31, 2017 |

Tertiary Update Election Edition – Vol 1 No 2


Sandra Grey, national president of the Tertiary Education Union, draws inspiration from her own family to discuss why it’s so important future generations have access to public tertiary education.

My 12 year old my god daughter Rhianna wants to be a wedding photographer. Recently it was an environmental lawyer, a few years ago it was teacher, and in a few years who knows? The only given is that Rhianna will need some form of tertiary education and training as she moves from school to adulthood. When I left school in 1987 the same was true, you needed to get into a polytechnic or university, or take up some form of in-work training if you wanted a secure future.

What’s different for Rhianna is the way the National government views tertiary education and how this negatively affects students, their families, and communities. When I studied journalism in 1987 tertiary education was viewed as a public good – something we all benefited from – delivered by institutions owned by us all. My fees were minimal and I got an allowance to study.

In contrast National presents education as a private good that can be delivered by ‘the market’ including international companies profiting off every student.

When I was at a polytechnic in 1987 and university in 1995 the purpose of the tertiary education sector was to serve the society we are all a part of. In contrast if National keeps rolling out its plan, Rhianna will enter a system primarily serving big business.

Rihanna and her 12-year-old friends won’t be starting their tertiary education journey until 2022. And, while crystal ball gazing is always dangerous, the trajectory National has us heading in – education as a market – means fees for Rhianna could begin at around $27,000 per year (well the fees will be much more if she follows her dream to be an environmental lawyer).

Added to the prohibitive cost, which will lead to massive student indebtedness and hardship for many, National has repeatedly put limits on when and how long Kiwis can study. For example it ruled that people aged 55 years and over will no longer be eligible to borrow for living costs or course-related costs. It is a government that won’t invest in their retraining.

National try to justify their changes saying we must steer students away from any study without a pretty immediate job outcome. I want Rhianna to have the skills and knowledge which enable her to get a job, but I wanteducation to be much more than this for Rhianna and her friends. I don’t want the high cost of education and government directives about training ‘good workers’ to stop Rhianna from fulfilling her hopes and aspirations.

She has recently aspired to be a lawyer that saves us from environmental disaster; later in life she may want to become a builder; she might want to study history and work at the Waitangi Tribunal; or she might want to become a sculptor. Some of the areas she might study in may be less-than instrumental, they may not directly contribute to our nation’s economic growth, but she should not be denied the opportunity to be the person she wants to be. Learning is important for life, not just employment.

So who cares that Government policies are squashing the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Kiwi kids? The 5,000 people who joined our #keepitpublic campaign over the last two months care, as do the 2,100 people who submitted to Parliament on plans to further privatise our tertiary education system.

And the Greens, Labour, NZ First and Marama Fox from the Māori party care.

Each of those parties have agreed that governments should choose to fund public, community and Iwi providers of tertiary education at a different level to for-profit companies.

Each value publicly funded and publicly controlled tertiary education, which does more than make profits for shareholders or serve big companies. They also have varying plans to ensure future generations are not stopped from study by high fees and a lack of support.

So will you use your voice and vote this election to say #keepitpublic?

If we vote for the Greens, Labour, NZ First or Marama Fox of the Māori party, we will be able to push a sea change in our tertiary education system. We will be able to take a step towards an accessible tertiary education system that is that is a little chaotic, a lot creative, diverse, vibrant, well-resourced, and where decisions are made collectively. We can encourage everyone to use their vote to Keep it Public and give Rihanna, her friends and all kids real choices to use education to transform our world.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Local public tertiary education brings huge benefits to communities
  2. Tertiary education has a responsibility to act as our critic and conscience
  3. Is education like chocolate and cheese?
  4. Labour’s tertiary education promise gives people a real choice at this election
  5. Equity update shows improvement but more to be done

Other news

Massey University has formalised a training programme agreement with the China Scholarship Council – Massey

Professor Max Abbott from the Auckland University of Technology has written in support of a broader approach to training rural health professionals rather than just training more doctors – AUT

The government has announced a new scholarship programme to build global expertise on climate change – Beehive

The University of Otago has launched an e-learning module to help health clinicians work with patients’ interpreters – Live News

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