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Mallard: - Strengthening Community Education

14 May 2005 Speech Notes

Hon Trevor Mallard: - Strengthening Adult and Community Education
Speech to the Adult and Community Education Aotearoa Conference 2005

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today.

Adult and Community Education (ACE) has a long and impressive history in New Zealand and I believe ACE also has a bright future.

I am proud to have been a part of that history in my early role with REAPs.

I'd like to start today by talking about the Labour-led government's vision for education and some of our current priorities.
Labour believes that every New Zealander is entitled to access quality public education of the highest standard, throughout their lives.

Quality education ensures that every Kiwi regardless of who they are and where they come from can achieve their full potential and contribute to New Zealand’s society and economy.

Lifting educational achievement and participation in education for all New Zealanders is a major priority for our government.
Adult and community education plays a key role in reaching that objective by supporting communities around New Zealand.

In April I released the 2005 – 2007 Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities.
Most of the messages in this STEP will not be news to you – but I want to emphasise that the key themes apply as much to the ACE sector as they do to other tertiary education providers.

This STEP focuses on quality, relevance and innovation.

We aim to ensure that high levels of participation are matched with high quality and high relevance education to meet our country's needs and the needs of individuals.

It’s at this point that I should quickly dispel any misunderstandings there may be within the sector over the nature of the current TEC reviews of some student component EFTS funded provision and the proposed changes to the way ACE is funded.

The relevancy of student component programmes will come into question if they are designed solely to meet personal interests and not connect the learner with broader cultural and intellectual life.

This is separate from what the TEC is proposing within the ACE sector, where hobby-type activities have long been offered and which may indeed continue to be so if they are aligned with the national ACE priorities.

I also want to reiterate what the STEP says about ACE provision at tertiary education institutions before I talk about the traditional ACE sector because I know that what some polytechnics have done with their 5.1 community education funding is of deep concern to you.

Let me be very clear. I view the way some institutions have abused classification 5.1 funding as an outrage and an absolute abuse of the system.

That kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable and will be stopped.
I do not believe that the huge growth in 5.1 funding in recent years has produced value for money, and I want to make it very clear that I do not believe that funding courses of low quality and low relevance is any way to prop up tertiary education institutions that would otherwise have financial difficulty.

As I'm sure you will have already gathered, the days of 5.1 funding are numbered. I have asked for advice on how that money can be reinvested in programmes that produce better outcomes.

I also want to see how that money is spent more closely aligned with the cost of provision. It is simply outrageous that some institutions have been claiming large sums of EFTS funding for distance learning, non-contact courses that appear to involve little more than a student receiving a CD in the mail.

There will also be changes to the short awards (i.e. qualifications of fewer than 40 credits). The provision of short awards has grown from $9 million in 2000 to $30 million in 2004, mostly in areas traditionally supported by employers or the voluntary sector. I intend to propose to Cabinet that short awards only be offered as part of adult and community education. I have asked officials to work on transitional arrangements, and how much funding should be transferred into the ACE pool, but again I want to make it clear that there is likely to be significantly less money available.

We are still in the early stages of this work, but I am happy to signal to you now that I believe the ACE sector could be a significant beneficiary of the possible changes we will be considering.

We want to see money invested in the five national priorities for Adult Community Education:

- Targeting learners whose initial learning was not successful;
- Raising foundation skills;
- Encouraging lifelong learning;
- Strengthening communities by meeting identified community learning needs; and
- Strengthening social cohesion.

We want to improve the quality of teaching so that learners are getting good value. We want to ensure that education is available which is relevant to the learners and New Zealand’s needs; and to build knowledge which will give greater support to innovation and to social, economic, environmental and intellectual development.

To help New Zealand attain these priorities for ACE, changes have been proposed to the funding system.

There are three main points to note about the proposed funding arrangements:

- ACE funding is to move to a model based on type of provision and learning outcomes delivered rather than the type of provider;

- This framework will draw together the present diverse funding strands; and

- Funding for programmes and activities will be funded on the basis of their alignment with the five ACE priorities.

The focus on aligning funding to national goals places ACE providers in a strong position because they are already serving the community and, in many cases, are already focusing on the areas highlighted by the ACE priorities.

I hope that you have all studied the consultation document outlining options for funding which was distributed for feedback and that you have taken the opportunity to help shape the funding framework by making a submission.

I am also informed that the TEC will accept any new ideas about the funding proposals arising from this conference that will assist in the further refinement of the Framework.

We recognise that these new priorities will present opportunities and challenges for everyone, and that professional development and capacity building will be integral to success.

The TEC is working on a programme to build capability in the ACE sector and you will start to see the outcome of this work later in 2005. Part of that professional development exercise may well include enhancing understanding of the priorities and how they should be applied by providers to the assessment of their provision of ACE activities.

This is a real opportunity to improve the level of service to the community. In meeting the national priorities, ACE providers will be able to build on and consolidate their current strengths and develop new areas of expertise.

While the funding of ACE is going through a period of change, these changes should make ACE providers stronger and more effective in delivering quality education that focuses on the learner’s and the community’s needs to make a positive difference.

I want to signal that as a result of an early look at submissions the TEC is looking at some different options that may result in a slower transition to the new funding system.

The challenge for ACE providers is to maintain your flexibility and responsiveness to your community’s needs as you adapt to the new environment.

It’s an opportunity to extend yourselves and focus your efforts as a sector on meeting priority community education needs.

The Tertiary Education Strategy and the tertiary reforms are now starting to kick in and I am excited about the real differences that we can make in coming years.

I know it won’t all be plain sailing, but we are in an excellent position to continue building a robust tertiary education system that we can all be proud of.

You will always find me willing to listen to ideas about how we can improve the system and get better value for money for all stakeholders, including learners and employers.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I am happy to take your questions.

ENDS

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