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Maharey Speech Real Learning For The Real World

08 April 2002 Speech Notes

Real Learning For The Real World

The Challenge Facing Teachers Today

Address to the UNITEC professorial dinner. Oakridge House, Auckland.

Thanks for inviting me to speak to you this evening.

Tonight I plan to sketch out some of the Government’s ideas for tertiary education - in particular, our mission to link the sector more closely to our economy and society.

New Zealand looks to its academic community to foster our most skilled and adaptable people, and to create new ideas through research and scholarship.

Tertiary teachers and researchers will also be key players in the emerging knowledge society of the 21st century.

Our expectations of you are high - and my theme today is that, if anything, they are getting higher.


Here on the cusp of a new century, Government believes that the future direction of our country is - in large part- in the hands of tertiary education.

It is vital, therefore, that we harness the considerable firepower within the sector to our economic and social development.

This Government wants a sector more connected to the economy and society with a strong focus on relevance, quality and access.

We are determined to “open up’ tertiary education so that it enjoys a closer relationship with our economy and society.

We need to equip all of our people for the pressing challenges of globalisation, technological change and the growing importance of knowledge to economic growth.

We have therefore built - and are now implementing - concrete strategies to ensure the sector is ready for this fresh role in helping build a confident, prosperous nation.


It is why this Government has worked so hard to develop the first nation-wide strategy for tertiary education.

It is why we are setting a cracking pace to make the sector more outwardly focussed and better able to meet the changing needs of these times.

Our Tertiary Education Strategy was released in draft form last December.

This landmark document identifies the following set of strategic steps to help us gain this connectivity:

- Stronger linkages with business and other external stakeholders

- Improved connection to the needs of learners

- Increasing connection within the system

- Improving global connections

- Increasingly able and visionary leaders

- Development of future focussed-strategies

- A culture of connectivity, innovation and optimism.

To consolidate this shift towards becoming a Knowledge Society, the document points to six specific strategies for the tertiary sector:

- Developing the skills and knowledge New Zealanders need

- Ensuring learning and research for Maori development

- Raising foundation skills so that all people can participate in the Knowledge Society

- Educating for Pacific peoples’ inclusion and development

- Strengthening research, knowledge creation and uptake

- Enhancing system capability and quality for the Knowledge Society.

The revised - and sharpened up - version of the strategy will be released publicly in May.


Our current tertiary education system is made up of many talented and dedicated people with the skills and capabilities to contribute to national development.

But as a whole, it lacks the capability to deliver the needed boost in human capital development and research that will help this country prosper.

I want to stress that “opening up’ the system will be an evolutionary rather than revolutionary process.

Much of what has always been part of the tertiary education system will continue.

The focus will continue to be on the pursuit of knowledge, and academic enquiry, in its many forms.

We will continue to stress the continued relevance and importance of the existing values and strengths of the academic tradition.

Given my background, I am especially determined that the role of academics as critics and consciences of society will never be diminished.

It is an important part of the dynamism of our democracy.

But over time, we want to see a fundamental shift in tertiary education.

Knowledge and enquiry will be increasingly aligned with national development goals.

This will be a shift away from the traditional view where the main role of tertiary education was seen as providing a service to individuals.

People entered tertiary education, decided which skills and qualifications they wanted to obtain, and then left when they’d done so.

This way of looking at tertiary education dominated the 1990s.

Learning and qualifications were seen as an undifferentiated black box and the sole measure of success was seen as being quantity.

By this measure, we have been very successful.

We are only one of three OECD countries where both participation rates and completion rates for university-type tertiary programmes are above the OECD average.

This, too, is important.

This, too, is not enough.


Increasingly, there has been recognition both here and abroad that we need tertiary educators to be in dialogue, not only amongst themselves and with their current students, but with society as a whole.

As I said earlier, there is increasing recognition that in the years ahead, knowledge, skills, information and creativity will be what gives our economy its competitive edge.

We are also coming to see the practical role of these attributes in contributing to social development.

The role of the tertiary sector in “nation building’ has been at the heart of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC)’s advice, which led to the present round of reforms.

It means that tertiary education is now becoming a key actor in our wider project of economic and social development.

We can see the spirit of this “developmental’ approach in the Growing an Innovative New Zealand framework, with the social dimension emphasised in the work of the agency we have renamed the Ministry of Social Development.

The Innovative NZ framework identified a well-educated and skilled and adaptable workforce as an essential ingredient in producing a successful 21st century economy.

We are developing a Kiwi model of development, which sees the government as a leader, partner, facilitator, and broker, working with other sectors to get results.

This perspective is reflected in our determination to bring tertiary education closer to our economy and society.


So how are we moving forward?

A number of linked processes are currently underway to move tertiary education towards a developmental focus and turn the TEAC vision into reality:

The Tertiary Education Reform Bill is in front of the Education and Science Select Committee and public submissions have recently been heard.

This bill also implements decisions made as a result of the Industry Training review.

As I said earlier, consultation has been completed on the draft of the Tertiary Education Strategy, and the final version is being written.

The establishment process for the Tertiary Education Commission is underway and expressions of interest for its board have been received.

Advice will go to Cabinet on the Government’s response to TEAC’s funding proposals this month, and this will inform the 2002 Budget.

The final report of the Training Opportunities and Youth Training Review will be considered at the same time.


What’s more, tertiary institutions will receive more than $200m in additional government funding this year.

There has been a substantial increase in tuition funding, worth $158.2m in revenue, due to an increase in student enrolments and the 2.6 per cent increase in funding made as part of the last budget.

This now appears to be well in advance of inflation for the calendar year. That means a real increase over and above inflation in the funding institutions receive from the government.

On top of the across-the-board increase, tertiary institutions:

- will receive a share of the one-off $35m Strategic Change Fund which will distribute funds from 1 July;

- will continue to benefit from the $60.6m that is going into funding Centres of Research Excellence over the next four years ($7.113m for 2002); and

- will receive the lion’s share of the additional $9.3m allocated to the Marsden Fund, the New Economy Research Fund and the Heath Research Council by Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson in the last budget.

In total, tertiary education institutions will receive over $200m more in direct Government funding this year over and above what they received in 2001.

The net result of this increased funding and enrolment growth has been some improved balance-sheets for a number of institutions.

The government has been very clear with the tertiary education sector that it does not have the ability to inject substantial funds into the system in one hit, rather the sector can expect, and has been receiving, a rising tide of funding year-on-year.

It’s now clear that this approach is paying dividends.


We must keep building on the vision of educationalist Clarence Beeby for a broad and generous education for all.

In a knowledge society, a diverse range of people require enhanced access to relevant education and training throughout their lives.

This creates a challenge for providers to deliver and distribute knowledge and skills in innovative ways.

The inaugural Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards are a good example of our commitment to acknowledging our best and most creative tertiary teachers.

The awards recognise excellence in tertiary teaching, promote good teaching practice and enhance career development for tertiary teachers - much as Unitec celebrates this with a professorial dinner.

They give tertiary teaching the recognition it has long lacked and is a practical way for the government to encourage the transfer of knowledge.

Funding for up to ten awards and a publication showcasing best practice has been set aside.

We need to start making more of a noise about excellence, about people striving for new knowledge and finding ways to apply and synthesise knowledge in relevant ways.

These are all elements vital to our future success as a knowledge society.

The other side of excellence is having systems and procedures in place when students don’t feel they are well served by education providers.

That is why I welcome the enhanced role for the Ombudsman’s office and NZQA in investigating complaints from students in TEIs and PTEs respectively. The clear independence of the Ombudsman’s Office is a strong building block around the excellence and quality of our tertiary system.


Before closing, I want to endorse Unitec’s commitment to relevant learning and graduate employability.

It is vital that New Zealanders have skills and learning that they can apply in the workplace

The Qualifications Register is a proactive response to the lifelong learning needed in a knowledge society.

NZQA has recently released a discussion document on credit transfer.

The brave new world I have been talking about today highlights the need for us to think about some new ways for learners to obtain formal recognition for their achievements.

Recognition of prior learning and recognition of current competency are both important ways in which credit can be generated towards qualifications.

A learner should be able to expect that a credit already achieved is valued and recognised in a fair and transparent manner.

Credit recognition and transfer are the litmus test of confidence in the quality assurance arrangements for education in New Zealand.

It is critical to help learners take the best learning pathway - and is a core part of our education and training provision.

There is, and will continue to be, much to do.

I think we are taking tertiary education in a direction that truly corresponds to New Zealand’s needs and interest.

If we are to address issues of national development on the scale required, we must keep bringing a sharp strategic focus to the challenges that lie ahead.

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