11 Dec 2015

Wānanga cry foul over lack of level playing field

5:59 am on 11 December 2015

Māori tertiary education providers are frustrated their performance is measured in the same way as universities and polytechs.

The wānanga say that the system does not take into account the fact they teach a completely different group of people.

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi Photo: Peter Hodsell / Te Ara

A new Ministry of Education report shows wānanga students are mostly female and Māori, are middle aged, have families, study part-time and live in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods.

Wānanga have the same performance criteria as other institutes.

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi (TWOA) acting chief executive Wiremu Doherty says wānanga provide a comfort zone for Māori to help them study.

"The tertiary system is built on an assumption that students arrive at the gate with pre-degree entry criteria in tact and they simply step on the next rung on the ladder and off they go. For various reasons a lot of our students are missing quite a few rungs on that ladder" he says.

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is opening a new campus in south Auckland today.

Mr Doherty said the work done to get its students to the same starting point as other students was not recognised in the current system.

Te Wānanga o Raukawa (TWOR) tūmuaki Mereana Selby echoes similar concerns about being compared with other providers.

"My question is, well which of the other apples are we being compared with?"

She said she would argue that wānanga have a harder job teaching their students compared with other providers, so different measures should be in place to assess them.

"The average age of our students is 39, so we are not talking about the 18-25 year-olds who have a completely different take on life." Ms Selby said.

Between TWOR and TWOA, 8000 students are studying, mostly part-time. As many as 32,000 students are enrolled with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

Chief executive Jim Mather said the framework was what it is and he feels TWOA is supported within the current system.

"I agree with what they [the other wānanga] are stating but for us it is dealing with the pragmatic reality of what's in front of us.

"We are engaging with tauira [students] that would not normally be accessing tertiary services. Whether that means we should get extra support or not is a question for ongoing discussion." he said.

Just over half of all tertiary qualified Māori who speak te reo as their first language have gone through wānanga.

Mereana Selby said it was important the institutes were well supported.

"Unless some solutions are found for the poor situation educationally that Maori have found themselves in for some time and that gap that's been talked about for some time...then the future for our general populace as it browns up should be a big worry to us."

She said Raukawa and the other two wānanga have been discussing the performance measures and she hoped to lobby the Tertiary Education Commission for change.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs