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National Government Abandons Education

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National Government Abandons Education

The National Government's announcement today of their Five Steps To A Knowledge Based Society threatens to further undermine the integrity and quality of our present tertiary education system. Their policy changes in the areas of scholarships, loans and research all bode badly for students.

Scholarships

The government has announced a package of scholarships to Sciences, Maths and Technology which places the power to shape New Zealand's intellectual direction in the hands of big business and the private sector.

"This policy of targeting only the kind of scientific study which benefits business is going to hinder much of the important critical analysis that sciences are able at present to provide for society."

Said Steve Day, President of the Otago University Students' Association.

"Business funded or influenced scientific study is unlikely to criticise the carbon emissions of many companies upon the atmosphere or to examine the many social science areas of psychology that questions the effects consumer society has upon individual's well being.

"Furthermore this focus upon sciences completely ignores the serious deficiencies which New Zealand education presently has in non-technological areas such as English grammar, history, Maaori and economics. "Has any research been done to determine whether New Zealand actually has employment for all these extra scientists and if Sciences and Maths are actually the areas in which we struggle most academically?

"The elite focus of scholarships does nothing for the majority of students who are simply trying to obtain an education against the background of spiralling student debt and decreasing government funding.

Loans

"The government has also made no real effort to address the loans scheme. The changes they have proposed fail to address the fact that students are now landed with over $3 billion of debt and that the average student wakes up owning the government $2 every day. The small changes to the interest rate that are proposed are not only late in coming but inadequate and are being held over on the whole until after the election. This means they assume as much value as other previous National Party promises for universal allowances and an end to fees.

Research

"The clear focus upon addressing the needs of employers and business at the expense of the actual values of a university threatens to undermine the universities' statutory role as a critic and conscience of society. It is of real concern to see that the white paper on tertiary education may well rear its ugly head once more before the election. This means those interested in research can now start targeting their applications to make them as business friendly as possible and as unlikely to challenge the mental rigour of the private sector as possible. "The concept of learning for learning's sake has been abandoned in favour of priority funding for knowledge which can spin a dollar. Plato and Copernicus step aside for Roger Kerr and Max Bradford."

For Further Information Please Contact:

Steve Day 021 345 368 (cell) President (03) 479 5333 (w)

The Otago University Students' Association(03) 473 7391 (h)


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