Night classes – Adult and Community Education (ACE). An incredibly cost effective and valuable part of the NZ education sector for decades. The ACE budget has been eviscerated by National, cut from $16m to $3m. Effectively a death blow, most of the infrastructure and expertise will go.
Right from the start reaction has been strong and clear. Cuts put study lifeline in jeopardy. A lifeline is what these classes have been for so many for so long. I was at one of the many community protests, and the stories told there would break your heart. These cuts are stupid and short sighted, and driven by erroneous prejudices (see Education cuts not a good look). But Education Minister Tolley is determined that the cuts will not be reversed. $35m to give to private schools. $50m for a cycleway to nowhere. But no $13m to keep ACE alive. Stupid and short sighted.
And hypocritical? Once again the hypocrite is Bill English, who made this cut as part of the budget. Here’s what English had to say about ACE in 2005*:
Community learning has a long and honourable history. I recall my mother going off to night time classes in furniture restoration, a quiet space in the busy life of a household of 12 children. In a painting class I visited a few years ago a man told me about how the tutor had changed his life by challenging him, teaching him and making him finish the picture. He described how he had become part of this small warm community. There are a thousand stories about how human needs are met by the collective and aspirational activity of learning.
…Education among adults has taken off across the western world on recent years. In every type of education and skill training, as well as less formal learning, numbers have boomed both for publicly and privately funded learning. The idea that education after leaving school is the top of the pyramid is gone. The idea that a citizen has only one shot education as a child and adolescent is gone too.
…I believe there is a place outside TEC’s framework for the learning we have always had, low cost, informal learning opportunities in every community. I believe there is a place for unregulated learning, for opportunities that fill the need in a local community in a way that suits the community, for a mechanism that fills the potholes that formal state education just rides over. There is a wisdom and knowledge, a generosity in our streets and suburbs and small towns that cannot be fertilised and encouraged by a bureaucratic leviathan in Wellington, although the leviathan can squash it. … I believe there is a place for education that is NOT aligned with government priorities.
…I support community-based less formal learning opportunities. I want to work with you to retain funding arrangements that allowed community learning to be so successful for so long, and develop new mechanisms with the same qualities, if your needs can be better met. In the end community learning should be driven by the community.
What a fine, fine speech. Pity he doesn’t believe a single damn word of it. Instead English delivered a budget that ripped the heart out of community education. Shame.
[* This speech is not on line, though an extract is quoted here]