Tina Smith, nursing tutor, UCOL talks about the future of vocationaleducation and the need for humanities teachingThe government is currently reviewing vocational education and the TertiaryEducation Strategy. Both conversations are crucial to those of usresponsible for teaching, learning, and student support.As a member of the TEU council I was lucky enough to sit around a tablewith government officials for a very open and thoughtful conversation aboutthe reviews.I listened and reflected on the great things people were saying. We wantequity, accessibility, strong Te Tiriti relationships, and lots ofinnovation. Such crucial ideas, yet my mind wandered a little.I thought about a colleague who explained that their journey to understandTe Tiriti of Waitangi meant they had learnt a whole different view of theworld which significantly changed their actions and life.So I reflected on my journey and what I’d learnt in my many years as anursing lecturer in the polytechnic sector.There have been a lot of changes in polytechnics. We are now flooded withinformation and technology. Forms dominate a lot of our time. We areconstantly reminded about costs and outcomes, reminded to do more withless.What’s more the world is different. We are more ‘connected’ through socialmedia yet depression and mental health issues abound. There is increasingdiversity, climate change, automation and changing employment, and peopleare living longer but not everyone is living well.So where does learning and tertiary education fit in this changing world?To me it should be both the starting point and the centre. People need tolearn how to make sense of the changes we face and how to manage thesechanges to create a better future.Education creates the people of the future, the community and world of thefuture.So what sort of future do we want? Do we want widening inequality andintolerance? A world where knowledge and power is held by just a few? Or dowe want people who are skilled, caring, and who make a positivecontribution to our communities?As a nursing lecturer, I want nurses to be knowledgeable, skilled, andcapable. But they also need to be caring, compassionate, and culturallysafe. They need to be able to critically assess information but then gentlyassist people who may be vulnerable. They must modify their procedures tosuit the patient rather than expect the patient to comply with a procedure.Quality skills are important but so too is compassion and kindness.And isn’t that the same for most vocational and professional areas? Isn’tthis true for social workers, farm workers, builders, and so many othervocations? They must understand people and human needs if they are to do agreat job and be good citizens.But where and how do people learn this?I would argue that we need to bring back a greater emphasis on thehumanities. The science of nursing is important but so too is the artistry.The arts and humanities teach us about humanness, about sensitivity, pain,resilience, and mistakes that we can learn from. History, stories, dramaand music all help people to see things differently, to understanddifferent perspectives, to feel connected.Understanding our past, the process of colonisation and the effects of onegroup having more power, is the basis of culturally safe practise innursing. Stories and drama help us understand the complex nature of powerand the negative effects that abuses of power have on people’s health. Thislearning changes attitudes and practice.Students need more than just technical information, they need to understandpeople.Education and the humanities can provide people with the learning thatchanges people’s view of the world and their attitudes and actions. Fromsuch knowledge students – the world’s future workers and citizens - becomemore considerate and more creative.So I want the new Tertiary Education Strategy and the Reform of VocationalEducation to embrace humanness. I want them to ensure students gain ‘humanskills’, such as an awareness of self, culture, and others.Every subject and course needs to include the human attributes related tothe skills and knowledge that people are learning. This will best equippeople for the future they will face and the future they want to create.The terrible events in Christchurch demonstrated that compassion andunderstanding can win over hatred. That people are and want to be connectedto each other. Education can provide what society needs if humanness andhuman skills are an integral part of all learning.