Higher education for everyone!

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I found this little gem from Stuff.

Now, before we judge whether this is a positive or negative decision, we need to keep in mind that we don't know anything about this yet. It does say right there in the quick-caption that National are 'believed to be considering' this option, not that they are planning on attempting to implement it.

Nevertheless, we can still discuss the details and what it might mean for individuals and for our community as a whole.

So let's take a look at what we know. It's not much.. As far as I can tell, the information about this and a few other discussions (sanctions for beneficiaries, reducing the number of people on the dole, requiring gang members to prove they don't have any 'extra' ;) income before receiving the benefit) were leaked before being finalised. In a radio interview, Simon Bridges said he was glad it got out, which is a very different stance to a leak that happened last year. The rumours around are that parents could be fined up to $3000 if their children leave high school and don't enter further education. In the interview, he wouldn't discuss unfinalised policies (fair enough), but he did state that National are looking at ensuring people under 18 are in education, training or work.

Most articles are just talking about young people staying in or going into higher education. They do not talk about going into training or work. Of course, we don't know what that means and who the exemptions might be for - for example, would teens parents come under this policy or would there be some kind of grace period? Generally there are exemptions for disabled people - intellectual or physical - so we can probably assume they would keep this fair for those people.

Assuming the reporters have it correct and that parents may be fined for early leavers who don't go into further education. For now, I'm going to consider that apprenticeships do count as further education since many do get qualifications or Unit Standards. But for those who don't, what would be the consequences? Is it positive, negative, or neutral?

Education for everyone?

The idea that young people need to be in education until they are 18 is an interesting one. I'm not sure if each person in our community should require formal education past high school. Sure, in some cases it would be great (and what would be better is if everyone has a positive experience, learns not only facts and figures but self- and societal-values and can retain all that information!). But for some people, higher education does not work and might not be their form of success.

Sure, we know plenty of examples of people that drop out of school to become extremely successful - Walt Disney, Lorde, Richard Branson. But we should not be looking to those people as general pathway. They are the exception and far from the norm. Nonetheless, we should not be forcing people down the pathway that seems to work for a large portion of the population.

Why do I say 'seems to work' instead of 'does work'? Because we still have traditional ideas about education pathways. Many people think that success is: School - High school - University - Career. But we live in a modern world with millions of combinations of options available to us.

Sanctions for drop-outs!

If we take a look at students who do drop out of education and go on to the workforce, we can statistically say that those students largely come from low socio-economic backgrounds. That's not controversial, right? Facts are still facts, right?

So those families who have a student that drops out of school at 16, and refuses to find work will get a fine of up to $3000. Now we've got a situation where we have a family who struggle to support their child and we're going to add on an extra hardship for them. This will not benefit them and will push them further downhill.

This is a similar idea to our prison system. We take people who are at the lower end of the stick and we put them into a facility where they are not helped, they are put into time-out. Sure, some people need to be taken away from the general population. But every one of those people in prison need to be helped. It doesn't matter if they are drug addicts, murderers, rapists. Everyone needs to be helped. Almost every one one of those people will re-enter society and they need to learn to be a part of their local community.

The parents of the students who leave school are in a similar position.

No, I'm not saying their crime would be comparable. I'm saying that in the minds of Bridges and his National team, people who commit crimes deserve punishment. My viewpoint is that people who commit crimes deserve assistance, just as the rest of us do. By helping, not hindering, each other we will grow as a community, whether local, national, or global. We need to learn and understand what is causing the blocks for these students and help them find their definition of success to move forward. Meet each person where there at.

Final thoughts

Each person in our society has a different definition of success, but a lot of young people don't know what that is for them just yet. For at least a hundred years we've been using an education system that does not work for everyone. We are slowly making headway, but it's taking its time and the definition of success even at school is changing. We don't need to prove our knowledge like the elites used to. Not everyone who wants to be successful needs a degree. Many people want to go down pathways alternative to formal learning. Chefs, builders, wait staff, military, administration. The government needs to allow each person to find their own way and to assist them by setting up programmes, by effectively using the internet as outreach, to help families and local communities promote bettering themselves.

The cure to poverty, to addictions, to crime, to violence: positive connections and communities. This is what the government's main focus needs to be. And while families and local communities are some of the most important connections, it's not all that I'm talking about. We need to see ourselves as part of the bigger picture. We are forming communities across the globe and we need to start helping each other out in more ways than purely for economics.

I really hope this idea of National's gets binned. It will push people down instead of giving them a helping hand.

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