End of night classes makes for a poorer society

Written By: - Date published: 11:04 am, November 7th, 2011 - 30 comments
Categories: education - Tags:

The number of people attending adult community education has fallen by 80% since National’s cuts in 2009. National’s cuts have saved only $24m (vs the $1.1b cost of the ‘fiscally neutral’ tax cuts) but have denied over a quarter of a million people the opportunity to broaden their horizons and acquire new skills.

The number of ACE providers has also decreased by 80% and only half of those left get government funding. The remaining providers are almost all in big cities, and wealthy neighbourhoods. In National’s New Zealand, education is for the elite.

National is leaving a poorer society behind it. Again.

30 comments on “End of night classes makes for a poorer society”

  1. queenstfarmer 1

    Mostly agree. The Community Education programme was actually very good. It was a penny-pinching-in-the-wrong-places cut. I agree that some of the courses could have been rationalised (flower arranging?) but many were very beneficial, and provided a genuine educational opportunity for large numbers of in-work/between-work people at relatively modest cost, leveraging off existing school infrastructure.

    Disclaimer: I was a CommEd tutor for a few years while at uni.

    • Banter 1.1

      And perhaps one of those who has made a ‘poor life choice’ has a passion or knack for flower arranging.. Why should they be denied the chance to follow that passion?

      Maybe as a result they start a small business, maybe they make enough to live, look after a family , who knows – perhaps they end up opening a few stores that are the best damn flower arrangers in the country.

      One person flower arranging is another persons ‘Learn a new language’.

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        It seems quite unlikely that the only barrier between someone doing what you describe would be their singular lack of flower arranging skills, or that they would need to go to a night school class to learn such skills.

        I can imagine an enterprising person as you’ve described could probably approach any busy florist and ask to be taken on as an unpaid intern to pick up the necessary skills and then launch their floral empire.

        • RJL

          Sure, I can just imagine a busy florist saying “Sure, I’ll train you to be my competitor for free.”

          Anyway, trying to argue that Community Education is valuable on narrow economic grounds like this is a terribly facile argument. And one which people who want to eliminate Community Education love because courses like “flower arranging” *are* indefensible on the grounds of some mythical economic payback.

          Community Education (and education in general) is valuable because it makes our communities culturally richer and therefore better places to live in. Economic rationales are red herrings.

          • Lanthanide

            “Sure, I can just imagine a busy florist saying “Sure, I’ll train you to be my competitor for free.””

            Because our clever entrepreneur is going to go “hey, train me up so I can compete with you?”. No, our clever entrepreneur is going to offer themselves as free labour to this small cash-strapped business that would really like to take on another staff member to handle the workload but can’t afford to pay the wages to do so.

            • RJL

              “Hi, I’d like to intern for you for free. Oh, by the way, I’ve got no interest whatsover in actually ever doing this sort of work or running a business like this. I just like helping, and I like flowers. Please train me. We’ll be great friends.”

              I can see that might just work if our clever entrepreneur was a community release mental case (and you didn’t need to use sharp scissors for flower arranging).

              • insider

                Great thinking. Similarly no plumber or electrician has ever taken on an apprentice because they are so worried that once qualified that apprentice might leave and shock, work for someone else…or zut alors may even buy their own van and tools and work for themselves. Such ingratitude. Bring back serfdom. Those guys knew their place and were never a threat.

                • RJL

                  A modern apprentice is already “skilled” as she is already “trained” via a poly-tech course (or at least is in the process of doing same). So there is more benefit and less cost to the employer.

                  Also, an apprentice needs to acquire the capital to set up for herself. So, you will probably be able to employ her as a fully qualified builder/plumber/hairdresser/whatever for a number of years until she gets herself totally sorted, and you know she will be able to afford to keep working for you, because you are paying her. The “master” will get some years worth of benefit from a proper apprentice, as working as a tradesperson for somebody else is a job in and of itself.

                  Working as an intern for free — that’s not a job except for the idle wealthy or the mentally deranged.

              • Lanthanide

                Actually the idea is that you start out as an intern and eventually become an employee, or leave the job with your skills to be employed by someone who can pay you.

                That’s kind of the whole point of an internship.

                Yes, our clever entrepreneur will actually be using these to set themselves up in business instead. But that’s because they’re such a genius that all they needed to start off this empire was free night-schooling in flower arrangement.

          • insider

            So you’d fund everything, no questions asked, just cos it felt good? Budget is not a consideration?

            • RJL

              Of course, as there is a budget decisions would need to be made. Economic payback to the community is a poor criteria to judge these particular funding decisions on, however.

              There were good reasons why funding decisions like the RWC were not made on rational economic payback criteria. The same reasons apply to “flower arranging”.

              In fact, if there is an economic payback, then that is a good reason for the community to *not* fund something — things that are ecnomically viable should be self-funding.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Nothing is “economically” viable – the dead weight loss of profit sees to that.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      (flower arranging?)

      What, you don’t go to your florist to send flowers to your SO?

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    Yep, the lights are out now evenings at the local area school. This really was a swingeing cut. The first time tutors learnt as well as course participants, it was a resource and knowledge go round for ordinary people. Adults often learn differently from younger people due to their longer life histories and ACE was a gateway for so many.

    Community education is one of the many services needing to be restored when the nats are shaken off our backs again.

  3. One Anonymous Bloke 3

    Open your eyes, QtF: community education is at odds with the dogma that currently passes for policy discussion on the political right. The last three years have been a consistent and relentless attack on education opportunities for adults and children alike, across all sectors, from the re-routing of public money into stake-holder driven research (the least lucrative of all research models) at post-grad level, to the overall cuts in tertiary education, pre-schools and of course the gross vandalism of National standards, which will damage children’s education outcomes here in NZ just as they have everywhere else.

  4. Scott 4

    This is a good example of the disconnect between Brand Key and his rhetoric designed to keep the punters happy and what this government actually does. Destroying ACE amounts to nothing more than mean-spirited, penny-pinching ideology from Anne Tolley. It was totally unwarranted and the justification that we could no longer afford it was rubbish given that she subsequently found 35 million to increase subsidies to private schools.

  5. smokeskreen 5

    Community Education classes were a unique tradition in this country which allowed people to gain new skills and often gave them the potential of future employment which they may not have had previously. They also gave people hope, motivation, creativity, social skills etc etc – all of the intangibles that money can’t buy. This has been totally destroyed by Tolley and the visionless right and NZ society is much the poorer for this.

    • tc 5.1

      Yup a bombastic idelological approach by Aya Tolley also removed a vital cog in some folks lives who look to occupy their time with pursuits/Hobbies and even sadder is some old folks who don’t know how to cook after their life partner passes used ACE for this.

      Never made sense then, makes even less now. A minister so bad Bovver Boy had to take the higher Ed section off her.

    • insider 5.2

      night classes are hardly unique to NZ I think you’ll find.

  6. Arthur 6

    Keep the masses ignorant, what we need is more cheap labour.

  7. National want it both ways: slash adult education and then they say that working part time is beneficial for mental health. (Working part time = night class).

    Why do National not recognise that adult education is good for mental health?

  8. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 8

    “End of night classes makes for a poorer society.”

    And fewer macrame plant holders.

  9. randal 9

    well hell. we should all move to hamilton where the council found $37 million dollars for a two day car race but cant fund the rose garden.
    thats where the priorities are in this country.
    me go brrrm brrrm now.

  10. millsy 10

    Farmer: You’ll be denounced as a counter-revolutionary by your friends on the right for that nonsense.


    If anything, ACE should have been expanded. Right wingers loved to sneer at ACE, but the classes provided social value. As well as being a low cost way for people to up skill, it provided an avenue for people to socialise and for schools to become more in-touch with their communities. As for the nature of the courses:

    a) never underestimate what belly dancing can do for a marriage 😉
    b) A great deal of satisfaction can be achived by making something yourself, whether it be a flower arrangement (floristry classes) or a coffee table (woodwork classes)
    c) Pilates keep you fit — in a world where people are going on and on about diabetes and obesity, we should be promoting fitness classes.

    My vision of ACE would be in each and every school in the country, the classrooms coming to life after sunset with students of all ages taking a wide range of courses, from basic intro classes to university papers.

    • millsy 10.1

      Ideally, the schools closed by Mallard all over Taranaki in 03-08 should have been turned into community education centers, run by their communites and offering various courses. It would have been an interesting experiment. Unfortunately policies dictate that if a school is closed, then it rots where it stands for 3 or 4 years before it gets flogged off.

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