Category Archives: Education

enhancing Income Generation Through Adult Education, a Comparative Study.

Edited by Richard G. Bagnall, (The Asia-South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education, 2003).

Keywords: Education;

One of the hardest questions that advanced education is facing is its role in vocational training.
As it gargantuan appetite for funds began absorbing an increasing proportion of national output, some educationalists seized upon the thesis that education contributes to economic growth so an
the investment in it would pay for itself. This is so well accepted, that to say that the thesis is a
hypothesis with little empirical underpinning would leave many educationalists puzzled (although one might add that this is true for most statement about economic growth – it is surprising how little we know about the causes of economic growth: most expressed certainties are hypotheses). The most extremist version of this view is that public education is only about contributing to economic growth, a position which largely drove New Zealand’s tertiary education reforms of the early nineties, and from which the system is still recovering. But the view that commerce and growth is central to education is now so widespread that it is rarely challenged.

Student Loans and Student Fees

Presentation for Annual Conference of Federation of University Women, Christchurch, 27 September 2003.

Keywords: Education;

I do not actually object to student loans. It is perfectly sensible way for a student short of cash to borrow on the security of future earnings. I will have something, in the short time available to me, to say about the inefficiency of the current student loan system, but what I am really concerned about today is the way we force students into debt through our university fees and allowances system.

Performance Anxiety: Why Incentive Systems Often Fail

Listener 26 July, 2003.

Keywords: Education: Regulation & Taxation;

In one of his witty essays in The Intellectual in the Marketplace, George Stigler describes a fictional Latin American university whose vice-chancellor aimed to raise the quality of the academic staff by a system of competitive exams. In order to win, the academics gave up teaching, so the system was changed to provide incentives to teach well. A further change had to be made to incorporate research achievement. Each time the ‘contestants’ found ways around the rules, the system was distorted and goals not attained. Eventually the VC moved on, to a position where he is as conservative as his radical reputation allowed, and his old university lapsed back to its traditional ways.

University Financial Statements, Operating Surpluses, and Student Fees

Prepared for some members of the councils of Tertiary Educational Institutions. (The choice of the VUW accounts to illustrate the general issues is fortuitous, and is not intended to reflect in any way – positively or negatively – on the university.)

Keywords: Education: Governance;

Statement of Financial Performance

Debates about student fees usually focus on the ‘Statement of Financial Performance’ which describes the revenue and expenditure of the Tertiary Educational Institution (TEI). However we shall see that other accounts are also important in order to understand this one. Table 1 shows the 2002 Statement of Financial Performance for the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW).[1] Its website is where you can find the details. (Attached to most line items is a ‘note’ which it is always wise to check when if you are interested in that line.)

Working Smarter: Is Our Workforce Skilled Enough to Compete Globally?

Listener 14 December, 2002.

Keywords: Education: Labour Studies;

Instead of the five percent downtime the manufacturer specified, the expensive German machinery was malfunctioning at four times that rate. The increasingly frustrated management called in its workers, who explained they had never had any training on the use of the machine. The German manufacturer would have been astonished. Their view is that each worker was a skilled technician who had a positive role in managing the machinery, not someone to do the jobs that the machine designers had not yet automated. Training for a new technology would have been routine.

Why Economists Dont Understand Education … but Still Try to Run It

Presentation to the NZARE conference ‘The Politics of Teacher’s Work in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, 24 August, 2002..

Keywords: Education, Governance, Growth and Innovation

Of course all economists know something anecdotally about education, insofar as they, their children and their friends went through an education system. My concern in this presentation is the deep tension between the paradigm economists practise and the paradigm educationalists practise. Indeed, an alternative title for today’s lecture might be that educationalists dont understand economics either. But being an economist I am not competent to give an account from an educationalist’s perspective. That I leave to the audience.

The Debt Burden on Students

Revised version of paper to NZUSA Student Debt Summit, July 23, Auckland.

Keywords Education, Regulation & Taxation

Substantial tax reductions for the rich, if they are not to be fiscally irresponsible, require cuts in government spending and the raising taxation on those who are not rich. Thus the generous lowering of income tax on top incomes of the late 1980s required others to take a larger burden – including directly: social security beneficiaries, wage earners, many public servants and government employed professionals, and tertiary students, and indirectly the social wage and those who benefit from it.

Does Professionalism Matter? in Health and Education It Still May

Listener April 20, 2002.

Keywords Education; Governance; Health; Labour Studies

In Graham Scott’s Business Roundtable published Public Sector Management in New Zealand”, the ex-Secretary of the Treasury provides an account of the late 1980s public management reforms with which he was closely involved. The book includes a few pages on critics of the reforms, including a half-hearted account of my views in The Whimpering of the State (and these columns). Scott writes, ‘Easton makes the extraordinary claim that reformers ignored, or sought to undermine, the personal responsibility and professionalism of the core public sector.’ I am not sure I went that far, but I did report American expert Alan Schick’s concern that there appeared to be an unaddressed tension between the reform’s managerialism with its emphasis on accountability, and professionalism which emphasises responsibility. Curiously (I will not write ‘extraordinarily’), Scott’s book does not provide much evidence that professionalism is a central concern, for its few mentions are desultory. There is more concern about ‘professional capture’, the danger that professionals will administer the system in their interests rather than the wider public good. (The issue echoes the corporate management/shareholder tension I wrote about in my last column Guard Dogs That Fail to Bark.)

Reviews Of Two Books on Labour Skills and Social Progress

High Skills: Globalisation, Competitiveness, and Skill Formation by Phillip Brown, Andy Green & Hugh Lauder (Oxford University Press, 2001).
Capitalism and Social Progress: The Future of Society in the Global Economy by Phillip Brown & Hugh Lauder (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2001)
NZ Journal of Adult Education April 2002.

Keywords Education; Growth & Innovation; Labour Studies

‘Knowledge-driven economies are associated with polarization and inequality rather than convergence and equality’ is the sort of challenge that our ‘Knowledge Wave’ adherents, wrapped up in rhetoric rather than analysis, would want to ignore. High Skills goes on ‘How societies tackle the problem of social exclusion and positional competition fro education, training and jobs is therefore an important pressure point for all countries’. So the writers are not rejecting the potentiality of the knowledge based economy, and its benefits – higher living standards of more and new products and better quality jobs. Rather, both books consider how we need to organise society given the knowledge-driven economy which is a response to globalisation.

The Sustainability Of Student Loans

Paper for the ‘Student Loans Summit’, 25 August, 2000

Keywords Education

It is important when thinking about Student Loans, or indeed about any other facit of government policy, that the policy which drives it is seen as a part of a total policy framework evolved out of a taskforce which was established in 1984 to completely review government policy. I imagine at the time that some of the outcomes of the taskforce thinking were expected like privatisation and corporatisation. But the comprehensive framework of commercialisation may well not have been, nor may they have expected the proposals to, say, reform student access to tertiary education. That was to come later. By that time the rule of making government activities run as though they were business ones, was no totally accepted in the policy community, and it was natural to do that as much as the public would allow. What that means is that the policy of student loans have to be seen in this wider context, and to challenge them involves a different policy framework.

Science and Anti-science

Listener 4 March, 2000

Keywords: Education; History of Ideas, Methodology & Philosophy;

Last year, some of the media gave extensive coverage to claims that Lyprinol would cure cancer, even though the drug had never been tested on humans. How could some journalists, trained to be sceptical of outrageous claims and miracles, have let themselves be so mislead? Perhaps it reflects that far too many New Zealanders are fundamentally anti-science. As the post-election briefing of the Ministry of Research Science and Technology reported, we are interested in scientific discoveries and new technologies (of which our uptake seems to be among the world’s fastest). But we have no understanding of the scientific method, of how science comes to its conclusions.

Beyond the Utilitarian University

Paper to Forum on the Future of Universities, University of Canterbury, 17 November 1999.

Keywords: Education;

“They measure knowledge by bulk, as it lies in a rude block, without symmetry, without design.”(1)

The Idea of a University(2)

If this independent scholar may begin with a quotation from another independent scholar, albeit a much more eminent one. John Stuart Mill wrote in his Utilitarianism:

“It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparisons knows both sides.”(3)

The Whimpering Of the State: Policy After MMP

Auckland University Press, 1999. 269pp.

The policy process has changed dramatically following the introduction of MMP. Fascinated by the theatre of politics, we too easily ignore the major changes in policy approaches and outcomes. Today, without an assured parliamentary majority the government has to consult over its policies rather than impose them. Along with the increasing recognition that the policies of the past have failed, the policy blitzkrieg has almost ceased and commercialisation is being shelved.

The Whimpering of the State looks at the first three MMP years with the same lively, broad -ranging and informed approach as Easton’s successful The Commercialisation of New Zealand, which described the winner-takes-all regime before 1996. Again there are case studies: health, education, science, the arts, taxation. retirement policy, and infrastructure. Policy possibilities are explored. Yet, as the title of the book suggests, any releif from the ending of Rogernomics is offset be a realistic pessimism arising from a shrewd analysis of the continuing deficiencies in New Zealand’s political and social structure. Although written for the general public, this book will also be read by politicians, policy analysts and students, and will shape policy thinking in the MMP era. Publisher’s Blurb

Literacy and Development

Speech to the 1998 Planning Hui of the Adult Reading and Learning Assistance (ARLA) Federation of Aotearoa New Zealand: Waipapa Marae, University of Auckland, Saturday 20 June. Published in Nga Kete Koreo, the Journal of Literacy Aotearoa, July, 1999.

Keywords: Education;

During his second voyage of discovery, James Cook had two boats which arranged to meet in Queen Charlotte Sound. They did not. After waiting around, the Discovery had left a week or so before the Adventure arrived in late 1773. The arriving crew found a tree stump, which told them there was a message below. They dug it up, to be told – in a rather curt note – that Cook had sailed on. The Polynesians were amazed, for here were two men communicating, without being in each other’s presence, and without a human intermediary.

Capital Cattle: Are Today’s Students Being Milked by the Older Generation?

Listener 29 March 1997.

Keywords: Education

Funding of tertiary education has changed dramatically from the days when virtually any eligible young person could go to university or a polytech mainly at the taxpayers expense. The new policy has been justified by “human capital theory”, which treats expenditure on education as if it is an investment which only enhances the student’s earning power. The commercial logic is people make private investment decisions about their education, deciding whether to go and which course to take, on the basis of the return to their income. There should be no public subsidies to distort their decisions.


Listener: 13 August, 1994   Keywords: Education;   You might think on the basis of their public stance that all university economists support higher tertiary fees. Ten economists from the Auckland University Department of Economics wrote a 1987 report advocating student loans and student related to tuition costs. This was seized by the Wellington professor…
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