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Extending the boundaries of learning - Maharey

30 May 2002 Hon Steve Maharey

Speech Notes

Extending the boundaries of learning
The Opening of the Learning Shop

Comments at the launch of the Learning Shop – He Huarahi Ki Mua, Porirua’s Learning and Assessment Centre. Cobham Court, Porirua.


Thanks for inviting me to celebrate with you the opening of the Learning Shop here in the heart of the Porirua shopping centre. Today we are taking another important step on a journey to lift tertiary education uptake and success, with a special focus on Mäori and Pacific people.

Porirua is a strong and vibrant community already boasting many success stories. But we want to see more potential learners getting information, support, and access to the tertiary opportunities available from the full range of providers across the country – and of course locally.


Government has therefore committed a sum of $1.75 million to tertiary education learning and assessment centres here and in the far North over the next four years. The pilot centres were among the recommendations flowing from the work of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission, with funding announced in last year’s Budget.

The aim of drop-in centres like this one is to target adults with low level formal qualifications, at risk of not participating or achieving in tertiary education. The centres will also link up with ‘second chance’ learners, people who want to boost their employment options, and those we’ve not been able to reach via other initiatives.

At a national level, too, government is working to bring tertiary education closer to our economy and society – with a strong focus on relevance, quality and access. We are in the middle of the most significant programme of reform of tertiary education and training the country has ever seen. It is a programme of reform that will see the sector reconnected with its stakeholders, with government taking a leadership and facilitation role.

This government increasingly sees the tertiary system as playing a vital role in shaping the kind of country we will become. Our future economic and social success will rely on our ability to build on our unique culture, environment and quality of life, while applying new knowledge to develop higher value-added products and services.


A shop-front facility like this one is a practical way of increasing tertiary education participation and ensuring it remains accessible to everyone. The Learning Shop will play a vital role in reaching out at street-level to potential learners and, importantly, will not duplicate support services already available in the community. Similar learning and assessment centres in countries like Britain and Canada have taught us that you can’t beat the face-to-face personalised approach.

The centres will offer hands on assistance to support and guide intending and current students in study and careers. Here in Porirua, the shop will be staffed and equipped with online IT support, including a 10-bay computer suite.

The centres will make an important contribution to the government’s goals for Mäori tertiary education, and those of the Pasifika Education Plan. We are determined to improve the level of services and support for both Mäori and Pacific people undertaking tertiary study. By improving the information available, we also hope to lift expectations about accessing and achieving in tertiary education.

Whitireia Community Polytechnic will run the shop, in conjunction with an outreach service. We know Whitireia as an established tertiary provider in the region with strong links to the local community. The Learning Shop facilitator will travel to outreach centres between Wellington and Otaki to provide regular support and information services. They will have access to a van and other necessary resources to conduct outreach services.

The shop will work with learners, their families and the community to provide a range of services. For example, it will tap into community and business networks to reach and support potential clients, and set up an advisory committee centre, involving local community leaders and teaching organisations.

Assessing clients’ learning needs and current levels of skills will remain a key priority. The focus will be on identifying what an individual student needs to move to a programme of study, and then giving them the skills to become confident and self-directed learners. Clients will be referred to relevant support services, including StudyLink (previously WINZ), Career Services and local projects such as the Home Computers Scheme.

ICT will be a key focus with information, advice and guidance offered on e-learning opportunities, tertiary education programmes, and online databases, such as Career Point.

I’m told that the Learning Shop wants to take a variety of approaches to mentoring to give students confidence to begin tertiary study and complete it successfully. The mentors may be people from the local community who have successfully studied at the tertiary level themselves and may be a one-to-one basis or a group basis. The facility will work obtain the involvement of groups such as the Mäori, Pacific, Laotian and Cambodian communities and groups from community churches.

It is great to see the learning and assessment centre concept now coming to fruition. By increasing the access points into tertiary study, we will see a lot more New Zealanders gaining the skills necessary to enter the workforce and to participate in community life.

The Ministry of Education will carry out ongoing evaluation of the centres to ensure their success. We are hopeful that this pilot proves to be a success.

It is my pleasure to declare the Porirua Learning Shop officially open.


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