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Cullen Informed Of Tertiary Discrimination

New Tertiary Education Minister informed of discrimination of Māori in tertiary education

Today Hon. Dr Michael Cullen met with members from the New Zealand University Students’ Association and Veronica Tawhai, Kaitūhono of Te Mana Ākonga (National Māori Students’ Association). The group met to discuss the issues pertinent to students over the next term of government. Specifically issues concerning the current government reforms of the tertiary sector, including review of certificate and diploma courses offered by institutions such as polytechnics and wānanga, were raised by Miss Tawhai.

“The publicity about the current reforms have had a disastrous effect on the perceived ‘quality’ of some courses offered at these institutions. This will undoubtedly affect the enrolment of Māori into tertiary education, Māori entering the workforce with these qualifications and Māori entering into higher level education” stated Miss Tawhai. “It is imperative the Minister is aware of these effects and acts accordingly”.

Currently 75% of Māori students study at certificate and diploma level, 74% of all Māori students studying at either wānanga (35%) or Institutes of Technology or Polytechnics (39%). There have been concerns that, in the eye of the public, the pre-degree reviews have been blurred with the ‘race based’ funding cuts. According to Miss Tawhai, the message is that ‘quality and relevance’ reviews are about cutting Māori courses.

“Statistics already show that Māori, after completing pre-degree qualifications, have a distinctly lower income than non-Māori with the same qualifications. In fact, unemployment rates for Māori with a tertiary qualification are only slightly lower than those with a school qualification only (approximately 7% and 8% respectively)” said Miss Tawhai. “This is evident of continued racism in the labour market. With the current handling by government of the messages arising from these reviews, this disparity is sure to get worse”.

Since 2003, Māori Student Equivalent Full Time Status (EFTS) points have dropped, showing a decrease in full time enrolments of Māori students in tertiary education. Te Mana Ākonga has asked government for immediate action to progress Strategy Two of the Tertiary Education Strategy, Contributing to Māori Development Aspirations. “If tertiary education is going to be worthwhile for Māori, the government must take immediate steps to ensure its quality for Māori both when studying and entering the workforce. The discrimination faced by Māori across these levels must stop” concluded Miss Tawhai.

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