Labour throwing money at wrong end of education pathway

December 7, 2017

The government has announced some details of its fee-free tertiary education policy:

From 1 January 2018 all New Zealand students who finish school in 2017, or will finish school during 2018, qualify for a year of free provider based tertiary education or industry training.

This policy will also benefit those who aren’t school leavers. Adults who have previously studied for less than half full time year of tertiary education or industry training also will qualify for fees free. . . 

This includes overseas students and those studying courses which may or may not have personal benefit but appear to be of  little if any benefit to the country:

Labour must explain why it believes taxpayers should be paying more for people to study golf, homeopathy and skydiving, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Government was reluctant to provide any detail on its multi-billion fees-free policy and now we know why – today’s announcement has confirmed a return to the bad old Labour days of funding international hip hop study tours and family reunions.

“Under the criteria outlined today, fees-free study options will include a Diploma in Tournament Golf from IGQ Golf College, a Diploma in Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine from the New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine and a Diploma in Commercial Skydiving.

“While it makes sense that golf students ‘have an in-depth understanding of golf theory’ is it really a high priority for new spending?

“This is just bad policy. This is on top of the Government’s own estimates showing hardly any more students will be enrolling because of this policy, when Labour has justified this spending by saying it wants greater participation in tertiary education.

“Most of the 80,000 students that will benefit would have enrolled anyway and were prepared to make some contribution to the cost of their study because they saw the lifetime value in it.

“New Zealand’s tertiary education system is already heavily subsidised and the average student loan is paid off in less than seven years. This policy will just give even more money to people who will earn high incomes and should contribute something to the cost of their education.

“The policy represents a colossal missed opportunity and grossly untargeted spending. Surely it would be better to invest public money into targeting the very small group for whom cost is a barrier?

“And with all the money being sucked into supporting every full-time student in their first year, it leaves nothing to invest in the tertiary institutions themselves so that they can deliver world-class education that equips the next generation of Kiwis to be internationally competitive.

“The tertiary education sector has been left in the dark for months and it’s only now getting the details of this major policy. It gives the sector less than a month to prepare for the changes – and all for a policy that acts as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.” 

About 80,000 students will qualify for the fee-free year but how much will it cost and how many extra students will enrol because of it?

The Government expects its $339 million first year fee-free tertiary education policy will see an additional 2000 people enter into study or training next year.

That’s nearly $170,000 per extra student, who may or may not go on to finish the course which may or may not be of any more than recreational value.

Meanwhile New Zealand’s literacy score has dropped for the first time in 15 years.

The government can’t be blamed for that result but it can be challenged on why it’s throwing money at first-year tertiary students when it would be far better used much earlier in the education pathway to improve the literacy of school children.

It probably wouldn’t take $170,000 per pupil and it would be addressing an urgent need which the fee-free policy is not.

Labour is throwing money spraying it round the upper end of the education pathway when there’s urgent need for more to be spent at the lower end, carefully targeted at children who are failing at primary school.


Students $50 better off than beneficiaries but . . .

November 27, 2017

The increase in allowances gives students $50 a week more than beneficiaries.

This begs the question Naitonal’s tertiary education spokesman Paul Goldsmith asks – how do you ensure the allowances aren’t rorted?

Labour must explain how it will ensure that people are enrolled in tertiary study for genuine reasons next year and not to exploit the increase in student allowances, National Party Tertiary Education Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The $50 a week increase in allowances will no doubt be welcomed by students, but it’s likely also to be welcomed by those who realise they’ll pocket more money each week if they enrol in tertiary study than if they stayed on their benefit,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“Student allowances have previously been pegged to the jobseeker benefit so there wouldn’t be any perverse incentives for people to enrol in tertiary study even if they had no intention of studying.

Why should students get more than beneficiaries when the average graduate will earn around $1.5 million more over a working life than someone without a tertiary qualification?

Why should poor people, including beneficiaries, pay tax to give students more?

“But now that’s all changed, and the zero-fees policy will make it worse.

“For example, the student allowance entitlement for single people 24 years and over without children is $212.45 per week; which matches the jobseeker support entitlement for single people 25 years and over without children.

“By increasing student allowances by $50 a week, a person in this scenario will soon receive $262.45 – 23.5 per cent more than if they remained on the jobseeker benefit.

“While all Kiwis would like to see unemployed New Zealanders engaging in genuine study, decoupling student allowances from benefit levels opens the system to abuse.

“With all tertiary courses free from next year, what’s to stop any sensible beneficiary taking advantage and enrolling in study in order to pocket an extra $50 a week?

“It’s like having a new super jobseeker benefit with no strings attached.

“Labour needs to explain to New Zealanders how they will ensure public money will not be squandered on courses for people who have no intention of completing their course. . . 

Having people, especially young ones, studying rather than on a benefit ought to be better for them and the country.

But it won’t be if people do the maths and enrol at a tertiary institution simply to claim the allowance.

They wouldn’t get away with it for long – if they don’t pass their courses they won’t be able to continue.

Failing will also mean that if they decide later to enrol as genuine students they won’t be eligible for allowances or interest-free loans.

But if  they don’t think, or don’t care about the consequences, or are desperate enough for an extra $50 a week it would be very tempting to enrol regardless of how that might affect them in the future.

Labour’s got wrong priority for education

November 17, 2017

The biggest priority for education spending is the long tail of under-achieving children, especially those who don’t manage even basic literacy and numeracy.

The National-led government spent a lot of money working with young people who were destined for a lifetime on benefits knowing investing more now would save much more in both financial and social costs over their lifetimes.

This approach ought to be taken with education, giving one-on-one help to the children who aren’t school-ready when they turn five.

That’s the children who can’t speak English or have poor language skills, even if English is their first language; those who come to school hungry and with other health needs; those who haven’t had the emotional, intellectual and material support all children deserve and need to ensure they are ready and able to learn when they get to school.

At the same time, children already at school who are struggling with numeracy and literacy need more help.

Then there’s children with special needs who for their sake and others in their classes need more help than a single teacher with a room full of children can possibly give them.

Helping these children requires more teachers and teacher-aides. It also requires better teachers.

Teacher unions insist all teachers are good teachers. They’re not, like any other group. They are spread on the bell curve with some excellent ones, some duds and most in the middle.

Putting more money into more training and support to improve teaching standards is another priority.

Teachers aren’t particularly well-paid in comparison with other professions. Part of the fault for that lies in the union insistence that all teachers are equal and refusal to countenance performance pay.

That aside, pay rates that make teacher salaries competitive with pay rates for other occupations which compete with them for recruitment would help.

The new government is determined to alleviate child poverty. Ensuring all children achieve at school so they have what they need to succeed when they grow up should be part of that.

Instead, Labour’s first priority is spending even more on those who mostly need it least, tertiary students.

The taxpayer already pays more than 70% of the cost of tertiary study.

If more help is needed, it should be targeted at those who really need it; at areas of study where there are graduate-shortages and in loan write-offs for professionals willing to work in hard-to-staff places.

The average graduate earns around $1.5 million more over a lifetime than non-graduates who will be paying more tax to help them into better paid jobs.

In opposition the parties in government were strident about the ills of inequality.

How hypocritical that one of their first moves, giving tertiary students fee-free education will make inequality worse.


Rural round-up

November 7, 2017

Crown cash vital to lagoon plan – Tim Fulton:

The Labour-led Government might need to keep backing Crown funding for irrigation to inject life into a vulnerable South Canterbury lagoon.

South Canterbury’s Hunter Downs irrigation scheme was in final-stage talks with farmers and Crown Irrigation Investments for funding linked to a rescue bid for Wainono Lagoon, near Waimate.

Environment Canterbury said using the Waitaki River to add clean, low-nutrient water to the lagoon was a key feature of the proposed 12,000ha Hunter Downs scheme.

ECan classed the coastal lake near Waimate as a nutrient red zone. . . 

Basic farming brings rewards – Annette Scott:

Nick France admits to being pretty stingy in his sheep and beef breeding operation as he sticks with old-fashioned philosophy of attention to detail at key times.

He told farmers at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand farming for profit day he runs his beef operation as cheaply as possible, aligning practice with the philosophy of having bulls that perform well under commercial conditions and produce well-grown, profitable offspring.

“What we do here is cheap and commercial. The cows are a tool. We use them for growing and managing pasture for our commercial sheep operation and selecting bulls for the stud,” France said. . . 

New SIL values thereby hangs a tail – Sally Rae:

A sheep breed developed in West Otago has become the first in the world to have breeding values calculated for tail length and bare skin on the tail.

Allan Richardson, from Avalon Genetics, has been breeding and recording low-input sheep that do not require docking since 2009.

He believes the new SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) breeding values will give commercial farmers new opportunities to reduce their cost of production, improve animal welfare and open new markets for their lamb. . . 

Farmlands directors elected – Sally Rae:

Former long-standing Alliance Group director Murray Donald has been elected to the Farmlands board.

Mr Donald, who farms at Winton, is a chartered fellow of the Institute of Directors, councillor and member of the audit and risk committee for the Southern Institute of Technology and a trustee and chairman of the audit and risk committee for the Agri-Women’s Development Trust.

Nine candidates contested the three  vacancies this year and Nikki Davies-Colley, from Northland, was  re-elected. . . 

Wobbly times ahead for wool industry – Andrew McRae:

New Zealand could face a shortage of shearers because they’re not being trained, an industry organisation says.

Wool Research Organisation chair Derrick Millton said young people were not as attracted to shearing as a career as they once were. He said there was no specific training organisation to promote shearing and woolhandling.

“The age of the shearers for a start off, they’re getting older and no new ones coming in… There are a lot of other jobs today that are more appealing than shearing. . . 

Connecting children with dairy:

DairyNZ’s education programme is now used in more than one third of primary schools and one quarter of secondary schools around New Zealand.

Thanks to farmer volunteers, 4500 children (plus teachers and parents) visited a dairy farm in the past year and more than 21,000 children have visited a farm since the Find a Farmer programme launched six years ago.

Science in schools

DairyNZ’s hands-on science kits have helped teachers bring learning alive in the classroom, and explore science through the context of dairying.

Each science kit is distributed to 200 teachers who have signed up for the resource, reaching about 6000 children. The kits provide all the tools a class needs to complete a science experiment, investigating a learning outcome within the context of dairy. The schools share their work on . . 

Tertiary ed. not needed

September 29, 2017

More than 100 companies have signed an open letter declaring tertiary qualifications are not required for a range of roles within their workplaces.

Dear New Zealand

As employment is increasingly redefined by technology and new skills, the job market needs to respond in new ways to find talent. Skills will replace fixed knowledge and new jobs will replace the old. These new jobs need to be adaptable and offer applicants the ability to learn on the job. The pace of change is rapid.

As businesses, we acknowledge that the skills we are looking for in prospective employees can now be developed through a range of pathways. While traditional tertiary education has its place, it is one of many pathways to employment. Internships, apprenticeships, new micro-credentials, on the job training, online courses and badging are all effective ways to learn. For many, the time and cost of gaining a tertiary qualification without certainty of employment means we all need to think outside the box to connect people to jobs and opportunities.

As such, we confirm that for a range of specific, skilled-based roles in our companies, we do not require tertiary qualifications. These may be roles in technology, sales, marketing, customer service, management, manufacturing and operations to name a few.

In adopting this recruitment policy, we hope to attract a more diverse workforce with wide-ranging experience. We appreciate there are many highly skilled people with practical experience, self-taught skills, passion and the motivation to learn on the job if given the opportunity.

Some people are very skilled but don’t have bits of paper to prove it.

Experience can be at least as valuable than qualifications in some roles.

Attitude can be more important in some jobs than qualifications.

We will now consider applicants for a wide range of roles regardless of whether or not they hold a tertiary qualification. As businesses, our focus will be on assessment of necessary skills, attitudes, motivation and adaptability to join our organisations. Prior work experience (full or part-time), community work, portfolios, online learning and entrepreneurial endeavours will be some of the things we will consider during the employment process.

One place that you will be able to find these jobs is on the Trade Me Jobs site, with a clear indicator that no tertiary qualification is required to apply.

We are excited by the opportunity to engage with a wider cross section of the New Zealand public through our recruitment processes and welcome the chance to diversify the experience within our businesses.

We welcome other New Zealand businesses to follow suit and broaden the diversity of their talent pools by considering a wider range of applicants for roles. If you are a business that would like to join this movement as a signatory to this letter, please contact and attach your company logo.

We recognise that new jobs require new skills. We welcome a new generation of employees with diverse skills and talent.

We look forward to changing the conversation.

Tertiary education can have many benefits but not everyone is suited to it and not every job requires it.

New Zealand has a high level of unfilled vacancies.

A willingness by business to look beyond a lack of tertiary training when recruiting could be part of the solution to that.

It could also save people from wasting their time and accruing debt by studying towards something that will be of little value to them.

It would be good if something similar could count with employers who are trying to employ immigrants too.

For some employers, qualifications, especially those from overseas, aren’t always nearly as useful as character and attitude.

This is certainly the case for dairying.

Labour’s fee-free danger to Invercargill

September 4, 2017

Invercargill has had fee-free tertiary eduction for years. Labour’s fee-free policy would sabotage the advantage that’s given the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and seriously damage the city.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt wrote an open letter to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explaining that:

. . . I hope and pray that if you succeed in your attempt to become Prime Minister of New Zealand in the forthcoming elections you will not use your power to crush Invercargill.

My job is to protect the interests of our city.

In 1993 when I was first elected as Invercargill’s Mayor, we were the fastest declining city in New Zealand or Australia.

Then thanks to Penny Simmonds, her senior staff and board members, the Southern Institute of Technology introduced a brilliant Zero Fee Scheme.

This meant for example if you graduated as a nurse, you saved $15,000.

As a result we attracted students from all over New Zealand and our student roll increased from 1400 students to almost 3600 students.

By the 2013 census our population had increased by 2.7 per cent.

The Zero Fee Scheme cost $7.25 million to establish and promote and was courageously supported by the Invercargill City Council, our two community trusts, local businesses and SIT itself.

Now the Labour Party policy is to introduce a Zero Fee type scheme throughout New Zealand that will be completely funded by the state.

Labour’s plans will totally undermine Invercargill’s marketing edge and our innovative point of difference. . .

SIT’s fee-free policy has made a measurable difference to the city, boosting its population, lowering the average age and creating jobs.

Labour’s policy would undermine SIT and the resulting loss in student numbers would have a seriously detrimental  social and financial impact on the city.

Invercargill is working on a scheme to provide rent free accommodation for tertiary students.  It’s asking Labour to help fund that since it already has fee-free tertiary education.

It would be far better to leave students to pay the small proportion of fees they do at the moment, unless they are at SIT, let Invercargill use its own resources to pursue its free accommodation policy and spend taxpayers money  where the need is greater.

That’s not people who will on average earn around more than $1.6 million than those without tertiary qualifications.

As David Petersen says:

Free courses for tertiary students sounds great, but nothing is free. It would be a massive transfer of tax money from working people to produce lawyers, accountants, vets etc, who will charge those same working people hundreds of dollars an hour for their professional services.

And of course these students who will be tempted to vote Labour for this bribe, will be paying for the education of the next students, for the rest of their working lives if it is introduced.

The best use of taxpayers’ funds isn’t  more help for people who will on average earn around more than $1.6 million than those without tertiary qualifications.

The real need  in education is help for those who struggle with basic numeracy and literacy.

Free water not valued, free education is?

August 31, 2017

A very good question:

Free water is considered inefficiently used, not valued so let’s TAX IT, but free tertiary education for all and that’s different?

Except that water isn’t free to use.

No-one pays for water but we all pay to use it through charges for infrastructure, delivery and, if it’s potable, treatment.

Taxpayers already cover more than 70% of tertiary fees.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask students to pay a small proportion of their fees.

That would recognise the personal benefit they get from their education and make it more likely they value it.

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