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Bringing the qualifications register to you - Spch

Hon Steve Maharey
10 September 2003 Speech Notes

KiwiQuals – bringing the qualifications register to you


Address at the launch of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority's KiwiQuals website. Beehive Theatrette, Wellington.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to this launch of “KiwiQuals” – the new website of the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications.

Almost exactly two years ago many of us were here to celebrate the launch of the Register policy document. I said then that the function marked the completion of an eight year process, starting with a Tertiary Lead Group in 1994.

But I also alluded to the Hawke Report of 1988 as the beginning of a vision for integrated lifelong learning in this country. In the fifteen years since that report, many people have made crucial contributions to the thinking and the consensus that lie behind this milestone.

In particular, I want to acknowledge

- Professor Gary Hawke, Chair of the Cabinet Social Equity Committee Working Group on Post-compulsory Education and Training. Gary led the group that looked both abroad and ahead to produce what I think was a truly visionary approach to integrated lifelong learning. Not all of it has come to pass, but without the work of that group I doubt that we would be here today. Gary must be looking at the progress of the National Qualifications Framework, the NCEA and now the Register with some satisfaction.

- David Hood was also involved on the Working Group on Post-compulsory Education and Training and, of course, the first chief executive of the Qualifications Authority. We all know that it was David’s conviction, drive and really his personal courage that ensured New Zealand would have a National Qualifications Framework that is now a model for the world of integrated provider and workplace education.

- Dr Frank Wood chaired the Tertiary Action Group that in 1996 “forged” (and there was some heat involved) the set of agreements across the sector for an “operational, single, harmonised” framework of qualifications that evolved into the Register. As Chair of the Board of the Qualifications Authority until earlier this year, Frank had the satisfaction of seeing the policy through to practical realisation.

- Norman Kingsbury was chief executive of the Qualifications Authority during that crucial period when the Tertiary Lead Group’s report looked likely to languish, to gather some of the dust that was settling after a flurry of misguided green and white papers. Norman’s leadership in drawing together the various quality assurance and inter-institutional bodies was the crucial final link in this somewhat shaky chain of events that led to the Register.

Of course everybody here today has played a role in getting us to this point. We wanted to get you all together to launch the public website for the Register because, as is often the case, the website is both symbolic and practical.

PROLIFERATION OF QUALIFICATIONS

The symbolism - being able to view on the one site every single quality assured qualification available in this country - is more significant than the general user of the site will ever imagine.

This government’s tertiary education strategy is premised on the sort of transparency and collaboration epitomised by the KiwiQuals website.

KiwiQuals enables the public to find and compare more than 5000 qualifications (at last count) offered by more than 1000 providers. There are obvious benefits, in a world where choice is both a virtue and a burden, for the public to have a tool like KiwiQuals.

But let’s consider that number 5000 for a moment. For those of us who have been asking questions about duplication, the very size of the database behind this website makes a powerful point.

Searching by classification will reveal areas where we probably just have too many options and where there is wasteful and pointless duplication.

The Tertiary Education Commission is well on the way to addressing this issue of duplication - or rather the multiplicity - of provision and qualifications. This government views that work as central to realising our tertiary education priorities.

IMPROVED PUBLIC ACCESS

Another sense in which the website is symbolic is that it demonstrates a new dimension of quality - public scrutiny.

Quality in the sense of quality management systems, audit and compliance is now enhanced and complemented by the public’s capacity to explore and compare – the right to know what each qualification promises to deliver to learners.

I understand that the response of a typical student, teacher or employer is double-barrelled: “That’s fantastic,” they say, and then “what took you so long?”

Remember that on the Internet the more you give people the more demanding they become – and in this area that’s the way it should be.

For the practical benefits we need only turn to the website itself – in a moment I’m going to give you a live hands-on demonstration.

As most of you know, to be included on the Register, qualifications must be described according to a set of common terms: we have agreed levels, agreed qualifications titles relevant to each level, a common classification system, and perhaps most dramatically, a common credit currency – our own qualifications Eurodollar, enabling us to compare the “size” of qualifications.

So let’s find and compare some qualifications on KiwiQuals and see those Register characteristics in action.

IMPLICATIONS FOR USERS

So that’s KiwiQuals, the website of the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. In summary, what’s in it for users?

The most obvious benefit is for learners:

- School leavers and others planning for tertiary education can look through every qualification available in their area of interest.

- they can compare qualifications one on one to clarify exactly the sort of qualification they need.

- For current tertiary learners, KiwiQuals will be invaluable in plotting what comes next – what options there are at higher levels, the possibilities for changing tack and seeking credit transfer or exemptions.

For employers, there is double-barrelled potential:

- KiwiQuals can help in recruitment, especially of new graduates - it enables employers to understand and compare what can be a mystifying array of qualifications that appear on CVs.

- This website is ideal for employers looking at options for upskilling staff – in that capacity I expect KiwiQuals to be an important element of our Skill NZ campaign.

INTERNATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

Internationally, the site is symbolic as well as practical:

- KiwiQuals demonstrates to the rest of the world that in New Zealand we have a consistent quality assurance regime – if it’s called a degree it is a degree – if it’s on the Register it is quality assured by a government appointed quality assurance body.

- the Register demonstrates New Zealand’s readiness to make progress in international benchmarking.

- Learners planning to come to this country no longer have to rely on marketing and word of mouth – they can find and compare the full range of what is on offer here.

While we are thinking of the site’s international importance, it’s important to note that KiwiQuals is a register of “qualifications” not “courses” – not always the same thing (and certainly not where work-based education is involved).

Programmes of fewer than 40 credits can not lead to a “qualification” in the sense that the Register defines the term. So many courses, including many English language courses, will not be represented on KiwiQuals.

This could pose some difficulties, but it also has a benefit. There is now a clear distinction between courses that lead to coherent packages of skills and knowledge (a qualification) and courses (probably less than 4 to 6 months) that provide useful skills, probably skills that will prepare for further education, but not a recognised qualification.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PROVIDERS AND THE PUBLIC

KiwiQuals will be important to all education providers:

- Providers can now see exactly how their offerings line up with those from other institutions. They should, therefore, be better equipped to offer advice and guidance to students.

- KiwiQuals increases the heat on providers, of course, to be upfront about their courses and to provide this sort of detail for the components of qualifications.

For the industry training sector – for the first time we can see exactly how national qualifications developed by Industry Training Organisations relate to provider qualifications.

And for the public in general – a KiwiQuals demonstrates that New Zealand has its act together – that we are open and clear about educational opportunities and that everyone can become knowledgeable and involved in furthering the skills and knowledge of our people.

CONGRATULATIONS

At the beginning of this speech, I often used the word “satisfaction” with regard to some of the individuals who have done the groundwork for the Register – as we launch this public website you should all share this sense of fulfilment and completion.

I know that for many of you the past year or so have been very demanding – turning broad policy into detailed implementation is never easy – but it is crucial. There have been issues of policy detail, struggles to find the best data sources and methods of data migration, and the onscreen presentation.

I acknowledge and applaud all who have contributed: from quality assurance bodies, tertiary institutions, the Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission, Solnet (the software developers) - and especially Karen Van Rooyen and Martin Eadie and the policy, technology and communications staff at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The Qualifications Authority’s leadership in putting this site together has been crucial.

CONCLUSION

Finally, even as we celebrate such a significant milestone – it’s appropriate to look ahead. We can experience “satisfaction” but not be “satisfied” (Mick Jagger would be very confused at this point.)

I mentioned the need to address the multiplicity of offerings in the tertiary sector. That lies ahead of us.

Also ahead of us is further work to implement the Credit Recognition and Credit Transfer policy we all signed up to earlier this year.

The KiwiQuals website is milestone and an incentive to us all – driven on by the learners who now have all of this data at their fingertips – to make real progress on credit transfer.

ENDS

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