From Radio New Zealand:
11:16 am on 29 November 2021
John Gerritsen, Reporter
The Tertiary Education Commission says hundreds of initiatives aimed at improving Māori and Pacific students’ tertiary education pass rates are poorly-targeted distractions that are not working.
In a briefing to Education Minister Chris Hipkins the commission said gaps in Māori and Pacific students’ achievement would persist unless universities and other institutions adopted a system-wide approach to equity that the commission had developed and tested.
“If the sector keeps doing what it has been doing, there will be no to little change in Māori and Pacific tertiary achievement,” the briefing said.
“There have been hundreds of equity focused interventions across the tertiary education system to support under-served learners, with mixed results. Pilot projects come and go, but the necessary system level change to achieve parity of participation and achievement remains elusive. In many ways, these well-intentioned interventions have been a distraction from a focus on system-wide approaches.”
The briefing published on the commission’s website said the biggest equity gap was in bachelors degrees where less than half of Māori and Pacific learners completed their qualifications in six years compared with more than 62 percent of other learners.
It said the 17 percentage point gap had barely changed in the past six years.
That’s actually not that bad a gap: 62% of white and East Asian students in New Zealand graduate from college or something like college (“tertiary education”) vs. 45% of Polynesians.
Polynesians only got to places like extraordinarily remote New Zealand by being the world’s best oceanic sailors and wayfinders before the 15th century Portuguese.
If your country needs an underachieving minority, Maoris are by no means the worst choice.
Granted, as shown by this hit 1994 New Zealand movie that launched part-Maori Cliff Curtis to a Hollywood career playing scary Arabs and Latinos, their descendants have problems with drink and domestic violence (also diabetes, but that’s not as cinematic a shortcoming):
But the New Zealand Establishment still has hopes for its Maoris and Islander immigrants, whereas the Australian Establishment appears to have quietly given up on its genuine Aborigines and has turned instead to celebrating fifteen-sixteenths white individuals as its First Aboriginal Theoretical Physicist or whatever while bringing the hammer of the law down upon any journalist who points out that they are basically white.
The commission said it wanted institutions to introduce a “learner success” system called Ōritetanga [“Equality” in Maori] that it had tested with some institutions.
“Tested” does not appear to mean “raised test scores in a random controlled trial” but instead something like “gone through the motions.”
I could imagine effective interventions with 18-year-old Maori guys like, say:
You should come to my church this Sunday. A lot of pretty girls are there.
Then this Sunday’s sermon is “Girls Don’t Like It When You Get Drunk” and the Sunday after that, the sermon is “Girls Don’t Like It When You Punch Them, And If You Do, You Have to Go to Jail, Where There Are No Girls.” But, I doubt that’s what Ōritetanga is about.
It said the framework required whole-of-system changes to focus on the needs of their students at every level.
In other words, while, sure, all these hundreds of smaller experiments haven’t worked much, all we have to do is bet the country on one giant experiment.
… “This will be the first higher education programme of its kind at a national level. There is an opportunity to lead the world in delivering an education system that truly works for all our learners and to realise system-wide equity in New Zealand,” the document said.