Saturday, September 30, 2023

Robin Grieve: Reimagining Educational Equity

In a recent report by Radio New Zealand, it was highlighted that universities face the challenge of setting deadlines to ensure the academic success of Maori and Pacific students is the same as that of white students. These deadlines are a mandate from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), which has been striving for over a decade to tackle the high dropout and course failure rates of Maori and Pacific students.

In the past academic year, universities reported an overall course pass rate of 88 percent for white students, while Maori students achieved an 80 percent pass rate, and Pacific students reached only 69 percent. Similarly, at polytechnics, European students achieved an 81 percent pass rate, with Maori and Pacific students achieving 72 percent and 70 percent, respectively. The success rates of Asian and other student groups were not addressed in RNZ's report.

Among the ideas presented by those interviewed by RNZ to achieve educational parity was a call for Maori students to have a more significant voice and involvement in university governance, as well as the implementation of initiatives like increased funding for cultural programs. RNZ made no attempt to canvass ideas that might help Pacific students. One researcher at Auckland University, Dr. Sereana Naepi, blamed the academic staff for not using teaching methods that ensure equitable outcomes, emphasizing the importance of incentivizing them to do so.

TEC's vision of achieving academic success for Maori and Pacific students at the same rate as white students is a cause for concern for several reasons. First and foremost, to mandate equality in an educational institute that is not reflected in society is a simplistic and naïve approach that smacks of the sort of command-and-control policies a fascist or communist regime would have. Secondly it is discriminatory because it ignores the disparities among other ethnicities. Asian students have a pass rate 6% below that of white students and just 2% higher than Maori students, yet TEC ignores that.

A new government is going to have to address our increasingly discriminatory public service sector. It must identify individuals responsible for prioritizing the needs of Maori and Pacific students over those of other groups and question why the same level of attention is not given to Asian students in this case. The ACT and National parties are advocating for a reduction in the public service workforce, which could serve as an effective measure to address racial biases within the system by just getting rid of the racists.

Professor Damon Salesa, Vice-Chancellor of AUT, made a valuable point which highlights the naivety of TEC in making this mandate. He emphasized that universities are being tasked with addressing disparities rooted in broader societal issues. Educational disparities more often than not stem from factors such as family backgrounds, intergenerational poverty, the quality of the compulsory education sector, and the cost of living, he said.

The tragedy of TEC's focus on racial parity for Maori and Pacific students is that it overlooks the individual challenges faced by students from all backgrounds. Professor Salesa rightly pointed out that educational disparities often have their origins outside the educational sphere, such as socio-economic disadvantages and generational poverty. Instead of striving for racial parity, TEC should set a goal to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed on par with their more privileged peers. This would be a truly commendable vision.

If TEC was to adopt such a vision it would find that not only has education become more equitable for people from all backgrounds, but the racial parity problem it is fixated on will have been solved as well.

Robin Grieve, a tutor, orchardist and retired farmer, is Chairman of Pastural Farming Climate Research HERE.


David Lillis said...

Robin is correct and what is going on in our universities is as disgraceful as what is going on in secondary education. In both we attribute disparate outcomes to systemic bias and we have calls for parity in outcomes across demographic groups.

But how is parity to be achieved? Are we to go easy in marking and grading on particular students? Why not a curriculum that is oriented heavily towards one ethnic group? That is exactly what we are getting in early childhood, primary and secondary education.

Unfortunately, all Government agencies that have to do with education need to be re-built from scratch because they are quite beyond repair.
David Lillis

Anonymous said...

Fully endorse this expert view... some things are too rotten to salvage.

Start again is the only solution..... and deflect the Iwi wrath.

But will Ms Stanford do this? A real test for her resolve.

Gaynor said...

Look no further than NZ' s exemplary past to find some clues on how to achieve equity. The main one was the ideal of universal literacy as well as a similar focus on achievement in the other basics. This was promoted and practised in many parts of NZ, although not always perfectly achieved This belief was advocated thanks to NZ having a Scottish education system originally, within an English colony and was the basis of Scottish social justice. This for me is how true equity is achieved.

To achieve universal literacy you need to challenge and purge out the main tenet of the present educational ideology which supplanted the far superior traditional system we had originally. This tenet is constructivism a gimmick whereby instead of telling you something, you are directed to go and find it out for yourself. This insanity is entrenched in our system and clearly evidenced to be wrong, since it is the cause of our plummeting in national and international tests in the basics.

I don't believe it will work to just shove into schooling, some structured literacy which is the reading method we used to have when we excelled, but many literacy experts are ignorantly pretending it wasn't. We also need to have educationalists accept they are doing damage. But this is a big ask since their minds have been thoroughly indoctrinated into believing all their progressive, modern, new fangled approaches are and must always will be the best.

Vic Alborn said...

QUOTE: " was highlighted that universities face the challenge of setting deadlines to ensure the academic success of Maori and Pacific students is the same as that of white students...". This I call "reverse engineering". Attempting to force a desired outcome without addressing the actual cause(s) is outright stupidity.

Geoffrey said...

The Maori way of knowing has embraced extraordinary shifts in what one needs to know in order to prosper in todays world. Whereas the significant majority of those with some Maori heritage have accommodated that shift, we are lead to believe that some have not. Vast sums of money have been “invested” in trying to change this, without success. Perhaps it is time to conclude that attempting to impose that Maori way of knowing on a post stone age culture is of dubious overall benefit. Perhaps it’s time to again free our educational system from pointless constraints.

bruce Somerville said...

see DR Thomas Sowell excellent article on "Equity vs Equality" on you tube - a few years ago