Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Degrees by decree

As Michael Cullen moves to 'de-voucherise' the tertiary sector in a bid to 'de-Wananga' both the headlines and his in-tray, isn't it time to reflect on the mess governments have made of tertiary education, and are about to make again. As long as state and school remain unseparated, we may continue to expect the various dogs' breakfasts that we keep being served up.

More young people have npw gone to more tertiary institutions than perhaps at any time in this country's short history, yet fewer and fewer of them are educated. This is not an accident. Like Soviet production of tractors, there are lots of figures showing an awful lot of production, but none of the tractors work. Meanwhile the number of people who can actually think on their feet -- actually do things -- must surely be at an all-time low.

Cullen proposes nothing that will change this. His Government will no longer fund on a bums-on-seats basis as per the present de facto 'voucher' system; they will instead
...direct the Government's $2 billion annual funding of the sector towards areas important to New Zealand's economic and social development... The new funding systems, which will be given to the sector for consultation, are likely to see a divide created between universities and polytechnics, private providers, wananga and colleges of education. The Government wants to establish different funding streams for the different pathways through the tertiary sector. The proposals are part of its tertiary strategy, which puts quality teaching, learning and research at the top of the priority list. But it is also likely to signal potential winners and losers in the battle for a share of the annual funding pot.
In other words, the institutes will lobby the Government's bureaucrats as to where the money will go, and those bureaucrats will decide what 'quality' looks like -- and you can be sure anything socio-economically and politically correct will give you plenty of ticks in the old 'quality' box. Thus, we'll go from oversupplying morons as we have been doing to politicising delivery as we will be doing -- both problems that are intrinsic to government provision of education. Where are the cries for academic freedom now? And where 'quality' when judged by a bureaucracy? If we had our daily bread supplied this way there's be an abundance of 'delivery systems,' an effusion of red tape -- but very little bread. And just think how much more important are the minds of young New Zealand students than is your slice of toast in the morning. As the Spitting Llama summarises:
When they began bulk-funding for the number of students they moved away from the principle of performance. Call it excellence, if you will, which Universities have always been about. Instead they taxed and applied bulk-funding in a Socialist universal solvent which makes no distinction in skill, ability or suitability but simply decrees degree. And now? When they have a chance to fix their fuck up? They're giving it to the industry for consultation. That's a bit like asking the prisoners when they should be paroled.
The Spitting Llama isn't the only one appalled that they're still sticking with a taxpayer-paid system that "decrees degrees" and results in too few real thinkers and an oversupply of undereducated earnestness -- earnestness, as PJ O'Rourke suggested, just being stupidity sent to college. You should hear what he says about the sort of stupidity that gets sent to Parliament, so much of it in evidence here.

LINKS: Aint got no edukashun - Spitting Llama
Wananga, waste, and voucher failure - Peter Cresswell
Separation of state and school - Not PC

TAGS: Education, Politics_NZ


  1. ? What's missing, PC? I don''t think it's my pc ..

  2. No, it was my cat, posting blogs for me before I've finished them. :-/

    Maybe I should start a blog for her too? :-)

  3. Love it. A capitalist cat! Go, Puss!

    Suggested cat-lib blog title: 'Not going cat in hand'?

    Or 'Not Puss-C'! Nah. Tacky. Porn links would get old, fast. :)

  4. ACT supports voucher systems for school children (while opposing its effects in the tertiary sector. This is addressed to those who privately support libertarian ideas while publicly, financially and electorally supporting ACT:

    This is the all too obvious next step in the voucher system cycle.

    We start with the state owning and controlling the vast majority of education institutions.

    People point to the waste, the politicisation, the low quality, the lack of diversity etc. and call for change.

    Rather than taking the hard road and calling for complete privatisation, they call for continued taxpayer funding and the use of vouchers to allow for choice.

    Choice will see an end to people being forced to go to their
    local institution and will create incentives for institutions to improve and remain competitive or perish. A taxpayer-funded voucher system will continue to allow poor children to attend, you see [and note that this concedes, as a
    moral imperative, that poor children ought to be funded through school by taxpayers - reinforcing the idea, not confronting it].

    The voucher system allows many to attend. The system is awash with taxpayer money. Rather than having to convince people to pay for
    someone to attend courses, schools need only convince people to attend their courses - and thus the critical hurdle of whether the course is worth the money spent on it is taken away.

    Some people advertise courses which people enrol in with high expectations but get very negative outcomes.

    There is an outcry. "Taxpayer money is being wasted. The market system has failed. We need to regulate it to ensure quality."

    And the bureaucrats who used to centrally plan the schooling system (and who cried loudest for the regulations "to ensure quality, you know") don't get jobs in the private sector as toilet cleaners or bank tellers or accounts clerks; they get the jobs regulating the schools to see who can establish them and who can work in them. And they call for and
    design the courses that all teachers have to attend in order to insure a universal level of quality, and harmonise the education of the young and
    vulnerable (and impressionable).

    And soon you have state-enforced fewer schools, less diversity, lower quality, dumbed down competition for students (if any),
    favours to unions, politicisation, waste - all because we tried to use "the market." When will people learn that the government ought to run things?

    Why do you ACT people support this? Is the cycle not blindingly obvious? It's happened in Sweden (if you care to look).
    It's all but complete in the tertiary sector. And still you continue to call for it for educating the young - where the calls for regulation to save the
    children from fly-by-night cowboys will be most vehement. Intervention
    begets intervention. Regulation begets regulation.

    If we want a freer society, we have to advocate our principles loudly and clearly; speaking consistently and without deference
    or concession to the ideas that stand against us. It is a long hard road and not one where you'll win "respectability" from the people who put appearance
    first and fundamentals second but it is the only road to an enlightened

    Why do you continue to sell your vote, your voice, your activist hours to a party that sells our ideas short every time.

    And why do you continue to put up with this? http://pc.blogspot.com/2006/03/rodney-hide-legend.html

  5. In the dark world of IT, the only quals worth hiring a minion for are private: MSCE, Cisco, CNE and so on. Ferget the dopes being trundled out the doors of the local learning establishment. Same with auto mechanics: the important teaching is done by the manufacturers and the franchisees. Kind of proves the point that non-state solutions are actually here, getting important jobs done, and overtaking the slow-as-treacle state offerings.

    Doesn't apply to the Universities, mind you: the spirit of enquiry and the conservation and extension of the 'body of knowledge' are alive and well there.

    Pity about all our tax being tipped down the other hole, though.

  6. PC, best commentary on this I've heard today.

    To Andrew: ACT's voucher system is for primary/secondary education where parents/guardians determine what schools their kids attend. I doubt many will just want their kid to be a bum on the seat.

    So your entire post is irrelvant.

    Tertiary education can be funded by banks. Perhaps a combination of vouchers: everyone gets two year "free" tertiary education but has to fund the remainder himself. Don't know what scheme would work best, but it is temporary of course, to wean people of government.

    Libertarianz believe in the big shock. So far they only convinced 1000 people of their approach.

  7. Bereft de Brains thinks he renders my entire post irrelevant because, under the ACT voucher system, "parents/ guardians determine what [sic] schools their kids attend."

    He implies parents of primary and secondary kids will care more about their children's future than tertiary aged students will care about their's. This may be true in the case of some "spoilt little hate-their-parents rich kids." For there to be stories of abuse of taxpayer's funds and ensuing calls for regulation under the ACT system, however, there need only be a few parents sending their kids to a few bad schools.

    Bereft is clearly unaware of the kind of dole bludgers who see their kids as nothing but a meal ticket at the state restaurant. He need only visit Lindsay Mitchell's blog (and search elsewhere in this blog) for evidence of those types.

    He then reveals his ... ugh, "ideas", for a different type of voucher system for tertiary education and, in doing so, ultimately reveals his socialist premises - that the taxpayer should be forced to pay for other people's education. NO, the taxpayer fucking well shouldn't! My post was addressed to people who believe in libertarian ideas but are too pussy to stand up for them properly, not to socialists like Bereft.

    Libertarianz members believe in decreasing the state as much as possible in any step that involves no new use of force. We believe that to change the culture we have to articulate our principles without compromise as such compromises not only take the oomph out of our argument but concede validity to the ideas we oppose.

  8. Lots of good points here. I particularly liked this one from WayMad, so much so that I'm going to repeat it: "In the dark world of IT, the only quals worth hiring a minion for are private: MSCE, Cisco, CNE and so on. Forget the dopes being trundled out the doors of the local learning establishment. Same with auto mechanics: the important teaching is done by the manufacturers and the franchisees. Kind of proves the point that non-state solutions are actually here, getting important jobs done, and overtaking the slow-as-treacle state offerings."

    He's right you know. And it's worth making the point too that hands-on trade-based apprenticeships aren't just valuable for trade skills: many of the professions for which degree-laden dumbkopfs are being doled out the doors of universities would be better to look instead to reintroducing on-the-job apprenticewhip schemes, just as was done in most professional training before state-funded and dumbed-down professional degrees became mandatory as the entry ticket to a profession.

  9. I have to second that.

    The Technical colleges in South Africa have a six months on, six months off approach to your studies. Six months you spend in the classroom, going hard at the books. In the inbetween period you go for job interviews with companies that have signed up for the student program. They get the benefit of six months of cheap labour (Like a $1000 per month, type of deal - less than minimum wage) but you get the experience and the opportunity to use what you've just learned in the real world. At the end you are assigned a grade by your employer which counter for a moderate (I think 30%) of your year mark. 95% of the students stay on with those companies for a few years and have more than likely guaranteed themselves a job once they've finished their studies. And they're behind the wheel of a Mercedes while most of their University counterparts are still flipping burgers. And by the time you reach upper management where a degree is needed you have a wealth of experience behind you.

    Happened that way for me.


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