A few points:
The literacy claims here are misleading, because literacy isn’t black-and-white.
Plenty of people are “literate” at only a very basic level. They have very poor vocabularies and poor comprehension. They also choose not to read anything that they don’t absolutely have to, and so never improve their skill. This also leads having a very poor personal knowledge-base.
Many are also completely oblivious to their skill deficiency.
I’ve encountered adults who got personally offended by meeting someone with decent written or spoken language skills, and/or a good knowledge-base obtained by extensive reading.
And no, these aren’t all just English-as-a-second-language immigrants. And they aren’t all economically downtrodden, either.
I’ve also seen people attempting higher education when their skill levels and attitudes meant that they wouldn’t be able to handle high school.
There are serious disparities based on geographic location and socioeconomic status. Schools for children aren’t all equal. Socioeconomic disparities lead to racial/ethnic disparities.
Higher education (and pseudo-higher education) is also multi-tiered.
The eight universities are one level.
The 16 polytechnics are at a lower level, and some have been caught engaging in blatant fraud and providing seriously poor quality courses. I had a very negative experience with a certain polytechnic some years ago, and the difference between there and a university was like night and day.
Poor management at polytechnics has resulted in three separate government financial bailouts this year. Including at one that was supposedly within a month of shutting down, in the middle of a semester, and had it’s entire governing board fired as a condition of the bailout. In another case, a polytechnic was caught for fraud, hit with a financial penalty that it couldn’t pay, and so received forgiveness of said penalty, plus a pile of additional cash.
One reason for the government tolerating (and even rewarding) bad behaviour from polytechnics is geographic. There are people who wouldn’t even go 20 kilometres from Porirua to either of Wellington’s two universities. Thereby giving Porirua’s polytechnic reason for existing (and receiving one of those bailouts).
There are also deep issues with low expectations and low standards, with polytechnics offering courses taught at high school level, and which do not lead to any improvement in the student’s job prospects. Some specialise in scraping the bottom of the barrel to enroll students with remarkably low skill and attitude levels. And lowering the bar, so that their certificates aren’t worth the paper on which they are printed.
I’ve witnessed a totally irrational situation of shoveling in people who had zero chance of success, and also taking people for whom the level and pace were insulting to their high intelligence, and putting them in the same classroom. Guess who got bullied?
Still lower are private training establishments targeting international student cash-cows with low-level, low-quality non-degree courses, which damage the country’s reputation.
One thing would be to teach students, right from primary school, to act civilised. At the aforementioned polytechnic, I saw people in their twenties and even older doing classroom behaviour that I wouldn’t consider acceptable for a ten-year-old. They got away with it in primary and secondary school, and expect to continue. And I’m not just talking about people with disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.
When the classroom disruption is so severe that a tutor stops speaking/teaching, that deprives the good students of the education that they may be paying and sacrificing to obtain.
Kids also need to be taught that, reading is a normal, daily life function, rather than some uncool misery to be avoided.
A huge issue is parenting. Violence at home? Foetal alcohol syndrome leading to behavioural problems? The child coming to school hungry every morning because Mommy spent the food budget on cigarettes? Poor people having children they cannot afford? Middle-class people who coddle their children and instill a sense of entitlement? All of these harm education for those children, and the others around them.
Another issue is the people who go into teaching. I recall back in 2005, a recently-graduated schoolteacher (in her 20s) living next door. I mentioned the Cassini–Huygens landing on Titan, and said that the kids would probably be excited to look up some photos on the internet. This schoolteacher actually said that she didn’t use the internet, for anything.
NCEA has various problems, and I get the impression that it is excessively complex. And can also be “gamed” to show students/cohorts performing better than they really are.
Education is also affected by unplanned (or deliberate) pregnancies, which can totally derail a young (or even not-so-young) person, and can do so permanently. There needs to be proper sex education in high school, with the emphasis on reducing this. I’ve actually encountered women who acted like I should have been having unwanted children while still a student. Or, really, instead of being a student. This is also a huge factor in the disparities between men and women, in terms of advanced academia and science professions.
Children and teenagers or any demographic background should be encouraged to take interest in science fields, and to see this as a viable path for themselves, and towards rewarding jobs.
The requirements for University Entrance were significantly raised in 2014, but some people say they are still much too low.
I have mixed feelings about “discretionary” entrance for over-20-year-olds without University Entrance. I’ve seen it work out very well in a couple of cases. But I’ve also seen people get indiscriminately shoveled into courses when they had no business being in any classroom, anywhere. Just for revenue.
For higher education, Labour’s fees-free scheme (i.e. election bribe) doesn’t seem to have worked to get more people into university. It’s expensive, and may incentivise some people to view it as a year’s vacation. It would have been better arranged as a reward for actually passing academically.
The previous National government was provoked by a perception of wastage, and basically punished everyone involved in higher education, including students. From 2011, there have been restrictions on loan and allowance eligibility and time limits. Which are worse for mature students and for postgraduate students.
I don’t suggest just throwing money at students who aren’t serious. But will say that, one of the biggest stressors and distractions is worrying about keeping a roof over your head for the years it takes to finish a degree. Especially in high-cost cities, like Auckland and Wellington. I have seriously contemplated camping in a public park.
I support cracking down on cheating and plagiarism (e.g. assignment-for-hire businesses). And on international students (and overseas agents) lying to obtain a visa.
Another problem to address is the increased pressure on academic staff to pass students, as part of performance evaluations, which affect not only individuals, but also institutional funding.
Two universities are currently undergoing “reorganisations”, which have provoked negative atmospheres among the staff, and some students. It’s important to consider economic viability, but the bean-counters can go much too far.
There are problems with supply and demand in certain fields. There may be a perceived labour shortage in a certain field, so it is promoted as where the jobs are, but three years later, there is a labour glut of new graduates. Not coincidentally, schoolteaching qualifications have had this cycle around in the past several years.
New Zealand has serious issues with funding and conduct of research, which can limit opportunities for postgraduate students, and also for the value of the degrees. Some people leave the country in order to pursue research and/or academia (i.e. the “brain drain”).
There is also tall poppy syndrome endemic in New Zealand society. I’ve been treated with open contempt by acquaintances upon hearing that I chose to go to university as a mature student in a STEM field, rather than remaining trapped in a low-level, low-skill, low-wage dead end job. As I’ve written before, this is a strongly female-biased pattern, based on a sense of competition and taking things personally.
Some people get negative attitudes like that, while simultaneously feeling entitled to all of the things that are created by, and work done by, highly educated people.
A million Kiwis lack literacy skills, prompting call for review
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An answer to New Zealand’s illiteracy enigma?