Centralised model could spell end of distance learning

Thomas Tarurongo Wynne, who is studying for a master’s degree in applied management through Otago Polytechnic’s Capable NZ programme, is based in the Cook Islands.

He offers another perspective on the Government’s proposed changes to the vocational education sector.

Otago Polytechnic's uniqueness in its approach to learning and adult learners has made graduation possible for me and many others in our small isolated community, hundreds of miles from Dunedin.

I am one of many students who are largely voiceless with regard to the Government's plans to amalgamate and assimilate a multitude of education providers across New Zealand into one unified body (working title: New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology).

Though on the surface there may be some merit in alleviating underperforming education providers outside universities, the question needs to be asked: do we fix the problem by throwing the baby out with the bath?

Yes, you read that correctly - these reforms not only throw out the baby and the bath water; they throw away the bath in its entirety.

Is it reasonable to ask, how can an incorporated body of homogenised learning centres from Kaitaia to the Bluff, ever provide for the exceptional circumstances for learners based in New Zealand and those of us scattered all around the world?

It is Otago Polytechnic's uniqueness that has made achieving from a distance so much more possible for many of us who might not succeed under other models of learning.

Collaboration and inclusiveness, working together for a common goal, are all values we celebrate - and so much more in the 21st century, from gender to religion to race and to the rights of indigenous communities and our tangata enua.

We understand that in Aotearoa there is an understanding of multi-ethnic communities (of which I was one), an embracing a bicultural society, of Maori and white settler Europeanism and within that we co-exist.

If I was to take the Minister of Education's view, then based on one group or a number of groups not meeting certain targets, then we would face amalgamation into a centralised people with a centralised body managing us.

Some would argue this is exactly the case, but we are here not to discuss patriarchy and privilege - this is, instead, a conversation about access to education in all its forms and autonomy.

Redefining the roles of education providers and ITOs, and creating the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology may well extinguish the singular reason as to why those of us in the Cook Islands and around the globe are a part of the wider family of Otago Polytechnic learners.

The Government has said in its proposal paper that the proposed change path is challenging but necessary. Let us hope that this is not a done deal and that discussion will have an effect on the result.

Self-determination should be a value afforded us all, no matter the context.

Without that, what do we become? The same?

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