Monday, March 12, 2018

Vocational Education reform - New Zealand

The coming few years will be interesting times for NZ educators across all sectors from early childhood to tertiary. The new Labour government has launched discussions into an overhaul of the NZ education system. The Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, announced late last year, sweeping reforms of the sector, including review of National Certificates in Education and scraping National standards at primary school level.  There will also be a study into the funding model for the 16 NZ Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs).

The last major reform in NZ of education was 30 years ago when the then Labour government devolved centralised control of schools through the 'tomorrow's schools' changes. As with all reforms, there have been pluses and minuses and winners and losers. The National Centre for Educational Research NZCER has a series of reports on impacts through the years.

It is timely to look into how NZ's education system is coping with the advent of 'future of work' impacts and 'Industry 4.0'. As will all reforms, there will be compromises and people with strong opinions along the right / left continuum.

One of the initiatives into seeking opinion on how to go forward with vocational education in NZ, was a workshop convened in Manukau a couple of weeks ago - the Voices of Tertiary Education forum. The workshop gathered representatives from the teacher unions, students, and ITP leaders to produce some recommendations for the NZ VET sector. There was another workshop for the university sector as well.

The outcomes from the workshop include:

·        - Work with staff, students and sector leaders to develop a new funding model
·        - Ensure a new funding model guarantees the regional provision of tertiary education, so all people can access learning opportunities in their communities
·        - Take the immediate step in Budget 2018 of changing the Student Achievement Component funding under-delivery figure to a more reasonable level
·        - Host further forums dedicated to discussing the future of the vocational education and training sector
·     -    Build a system that recognises and provides for diverse learners – including, but not limited to, Māori, Pasifika, second chance learners, sole parents, mature students, students with disabilities, and LGBT

In general, responses from the sector have been positive, to need to re-vitalise and re-evaluate IPT funding systems. For example, Toi Ohomai CE was mostly optimistic. TEU also collected responses from Kirk HOpe who is CE of Business NZ - who called for better alignment between qualifications, educational outcomes and industry and Sandra Grey, National TEU president response of a call to action to make the NZ educational system better. Chris Whelan, Executive Director of Universities NZ, provides the university perspective.

All in, there is a need to keep up with what is happening as the sector submits proposals and various committees are convened to discuss and feedback on recommendations. Exciting times ahead :)

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