Thursday, June 18, 2009

Open Entry for Maori to Uni?

I see Pita Sharples is advocating that Maori should get open entry into university (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10579221). Now, I am fully committed to seeing all NZers become well educated and am deeply concerned at the educational progress of Maori who consistently underachieve as compared with other ethnic groups. However, this can only be described as daft! Universities stand on their international reputation. We simply can't drop standards to let people in, no matter what their ethnicity. I am not sure that this would help anyway except in a few cases. Most who come in through the back door will not have the necessary academic ability to get through. It will lead to a deeper sense of failure and be counterproductive. I am sure there will be the odd student who would make it through this process. However, they have other ways they can do this. They can go back to school as a mature student or enrol in night classes etc. There are other paths.

What I don't really get when I read something like this is what Pita Sharples is trying to achieve. It seems to me that the Maori party wants credibility and to broaden its appeal. To do so requires taking real care to ensure that Maori as represented well. By functioning in a reasonable manner, other non-Maori may be drawn into supporting them particularly in the party vote. There are many European NZers like me who are very sympathetic to the cause of Maori. We do acknowledge that a great wrong was done historically in the colonial period. We do acknowledge that to facilitate the correction of this historical wrong, there must be efforts made, concessions and some degree of 'affirmative action.' But lowering the standards to entry into university is simply ridiculous!

A deeper problem is at what point does NZ become a nation where people of all ethnicities are on the same playing field. In my view, in the long term, I am not sure any nation can run with different systems for different ethnic groups (or any group for that matter). My forebears came to NZ in the 1840's on both sides. This means that I am a 6th - 7th generation NZer. I am a Kiwi. This is my home. There is nowhere to go. While I undoubtedly live withi the benefits of colonialism and must acknowledge this, at what point do my forebears no longer have to bear the cost of my forebearers' mistakes? I did not do what they did, I do not approve, but there is no going back in history as I see it. The world has moved on.

I believe we are some years and perhaps generations away from this. We must continue the Waitangi process and work to raise the good of Maori. But ultimately, there must be a time when special help is not given to people on the basis of race but on the basis of need; where all NZers are acknowledged as Kiwi with one law and on one footing; where it is acknowledged that the current generation is no longer guilty of the past; where we are one people with one law and one way.

I believe the recent statement by Pita Sharples is terribly counterproductive and only serves to animate anti-Maori sentiment in NZ, and we don't need this! I am pleased to hear Maori themselves coming out and critiquing this idea; good on them. My prayer is this: that NZ can continue to live in harmony, to find ways to honour the Treaty, and ultimately to come to a point of unity and oneness with one law and way for all (and in a way which enshrines the principles of the Treaty as best we can without favouring one people over another). Having said this, I am not sure how it can be done. There must be grace and reconciliation from all parties.

I pray that when we are there it will be a situation where Maori feel honoured and accepted and where to the best of our ability, the Treaty is honoured. I pray we can get there without the gun. One way we can do it is to rediscover the call of the Gospel to lay down our lives for each other (whoever we are), to come together in faith at the cross, and live its pattern.

5 comments:

AndyD said...

"Most who come in through the back door will not have the necessary academic ability to get through."

I agree Mark...at Unitec we went through stages where, to make budget, decisions were made to let in students who had borderline (or less) academic qualifications. We had a loophole in our entry criteria called "programme leader discretion"!! So we let these people in, and then despite our best efforts to support them, they generally failed everything for a year and then disappeared.

On the other hand, those who were denied entry and instead sent to the foundations (prep) programme, and who then completed that course and reapplied, showed the desire and tenacity to achieve...and entered our degree with the skills to do so...and one such student ended up in the top few students of the third year of our degree.

So it definitely makes more sense to me to utilise the entry level programmes that already exist, rather than dropping the standard for entry...regardless of ethnicity

Fi S said...

I was listening to the radio the other day, or maybe I heard it on the tv, I can't remember where a discussion was going on around this issue, and a point was raised which makes sense to me.

Instead of letting anybody in who do not necessarily have the academic ability (or maturity) to achieve in what they are pursuing, why aren't we targetting those students and supporting them from childhood? Some may say that this is being done, but really, is it?

By doing what Pita Sharples is suggesting isn't going to set a young maori person up for success, unless there is specific funding put aside to support them before, and during their academic journey.

Like Andy, I see the benefit in the foundations/prep programme. We've seen it work at Laidlaw, these students once they've done their year in prep can be better supported as they continue their studies. it's a brilliant concept. That is perhaps where focus should be given if this is the road that the government should take.

Joseph Collins said...

"There are other paths".
Maori are getting all the help they need into a variety of courses. I think that promoting more pathways/careers in Maori circles is a better idea than providing easy entry. Mind you, if I had a wise pastor any time in my Christian journey I wouldn't be attending college as they could have taught me how to learn for myself.

The government are trying often to please everyone without caring about what is right or most beneficial. They likely know this will fall in a heap - but it makes them look good for a season. I may be taking that comment too far, however, surely they are listening to University views?
Have you written to the pollies Mark?

It is also interesting how Muslims are promoting their faith. They are receiving a measure of free training. In new courses specifically for Muslims studying their religion they can easily gain scholarships.

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