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If it weren’t for polytechs where would we be?

Nov 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

A SONG and dance on Cuba St this week was used to attack the National Government’s handling of New Zealand’s education system.

A live band was led by Dr Sandra Grey, who showed her talents were not only confined to being national president of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU).

Speeches about decreasing access to tertiary education, student allowances and adult classes were all on the agenda during Tuesday’s rally.

A crowd turned out to sing along and poke fun at MPs with cardboard cut-out faces and a song-sheet with lyrics like: “Good golly, Miss Tolley, go back to school,” and, “if it weren’t for polytechnics where would we be?”

But underlying the fun was a serious message to voters – to think seriously about how their  vote will impact on the education system.

TEU campaigns officer, Stephen Day, says there are concerns that public education is under threat because money has been shifted away from the sector in the last three years.

He says the definition of education is changing, and education is becoming more of a bureaucratic matter than a community one.

“Education is now defined as a private good, as opposed to something the whole community benefits from.

“If you can’t prove that it’s going to look good on the balance sheet, then it doesn’t have value.

“And that’s not really a fair definition of education because education is so much more than that.”

A speech made by the deputy director of Wellington High School’s community adult education Robyn Hambleton outlined how adult education is feeling the impact of funding cuts.

She says eight self-funded adult education programmes are struggling. Currently there are only 42 schools offering classes for adults (18 are government funded), but in 2009 there were 212.

The problem, she says, is MPs like Minister of Education Anne Tolley viewing adult education as “hobby classes” and not a building block for creating relationships and skills throughout the community.

Mr Day agrees, having been involved in an adult education “singing for non-singers” programme.

He says adult education is beneficial to the community, even if it’s not an economic one.

“They’re not in front of the TV,” he says. “They’re going out and meeting each other, and learning new things, and sharing ideas, and becoming a stronger community.”

Another issue raised at the rally was awareness for students on how their vote will affect student benefits.

Co-president of the NZ Union of Student Associations (NZUSA), David Do (above), says the association would like to see a government committed to issues that matter for students.

He says these matters are things like high quality education, tackling student debt, managing student welfare and giving students an independent voice in the education system.

For many students this will be a first chance to vote in a general election, so the association is encouraging students to learn about what they’re voting for.

“We’re trying to let people know about the policies that are out there. And we have been trying to get political parties to have good tertiary education polices.

“Most of them have made improvements, some haven’t.”

The association would like to see a universal allowance for students, meaning access to the allowance for all students no matter what their parents earn, he says.

The Green, Maori and Mana parties support increasing access, and Labour has pledged to increase eligibility as the economic conditions allow, which David says is better than nothing.

The National and ACT parties have no specific policy on student allowance, and Mr Do says the party’s in support of increasing access to the allowance will appeal to students more than those without.

Sandra Day summed up the mood when she sang: “Speak up for education; which side are you on?”

GOOD GOLLY: Robyn Hambleton speaks as a protester was an Anne Tolley caricature.

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  1. Great story Ang. Did you take the pix? All the good news stories are about politics at the mo.

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