We have all suspected that a steady stream of degree "inflation" has been leaching into New Zealand tertiary institutions. Firstly, technical institutes have been renaming and rebranding themselves as universities--asserting that they have the "right" to grant tertiary degrees. This move, of course, is to persuade the market that they offer qualifications that are equal to the long established, genuine universities.
Secondly, the number of degree qualifications has blossomed more profusely than mice in a granary. One can now attain a bachelor's degree in crochet. If one is exceptionally good, one can get honours in the subject.
Of course this has been good business for the institutions.
The more courses they offer, the more students they attract, and the more money they garner into the granary. Simple economics. Who can blame them really. But the dreadful OECD has come along to put a spike in the barrel. Apparently our degrees are worthless, when measured by the amount of extra income a person is able to generate when one has earned a degree--at least according to a summary of an OECD report in the NZ Herald.
New Zealand university degrees are the most worthless in the developed world, an international report reveals. The value of spending years at university has been severely dented by an OECD report that reveals tertiary study adds little to our earning power - less than $1000 a year for women, not much more for men. New Zealand is at the bottom of the global league tables. The net value of a man's tertiary education is just $63,000 over his working life, compared with $395,000 in the US. For a Kiwi woman, it's $38,000 over her working life - that's less than $1000 a year.What are we to make of this? One obvious observation is that if university degrees are relatively worthless it implies there are too many of them. Excess supply over demand reduces the market price. Naturally, the government, which substantially funds university degrees--and has done so with magnificent largesse and generosity with taxpayer extorted funds--must bear a large amount of the blame. Now, to be fair, the government (as is always the case) meant well. It's just that successive administrations have fallen to the thrall of the most pervasive fallacy of our age--namely, that all social evils and human problems can be overcome through something called education. The reductio ad educatum pervades this culture's public and private discourse like a bad smell. All known social problems and all unknown ones for that matter can be reduced if not overcome entirely by a good dose of education.
Now, faced with trying to rein in its excessive, gratuitous, and profligate spending the present government is trying to weed out tertiary courses that are relatively useless.
The Government says it has already cut the number of poor-quality courses by at least 15 per cent, and wants to reduce or eliminate fees for lower-level qualifications - because students who complete them don't make any money out of their qualification. One expert says much of what passes for school or even university education would be better suited to after-school activities. Professor Jacqueline Rowarth of Waikato University's management school said New Zealanders weren't paid well for tertiary qualifications and thousands of students were enrolling in expensive creative arts courses that won't help them get jobs. . . .There are two predominant causes here. One is the indulgent education system which is driven by a pedagogical ideology called constructivism (a term which refers to the conception of pupils constructing their own curriculum). This ideology is rife in our schools. It stupidly proclaims that the best education is achieved when pupils follow their inclinations and desires. Naturally, the same philosophy is extended to tertiary education. When erstwhile students ask, What should I study? they are more often than not told, "follow your passions". Right. I have a passion for tiddlewinks. Great. Go for it. If you are passionate about it you could even get honours.
Rowarth said too many people were going to university. About half dropped out and still more were left with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt and no job. "They're sold a crock by people telling them to follow their passion. We fund an awful lot of peculiar courses." That was because people enrolled in courses they would enjoy, she said, so universities got funding for them and put more time into seeing how many more enjoyable subjects they could build up.
The second cause is the central, government funded education system. It is inevitable that this regardless of the policy or formulae applied, will devolve down to per capita funding--otherwise known as "bums on seats". More students generates more central government revenue, end of story. And from the government's perspective education funding cannot ignore the number of people studying and graduating. Success and progress is inevitably measured by numbers of students.
Ironically the best thing to improve the current asinine situation would be to reduce government funding for tertiary education. If universities and tertiary institutions were forced to charge their students more (because government funding was reducing) the consumers (students) would be less inclined to follow their passions and more likely to consider the actual value to them of a particular degree over the course of their lifetimes.
But that would likely reduce the number of students studying at tertiary institutions leading both to a huge outcry from vested education interests and from within the Commentariat itself. One of the great idols of the Age would be threatened with desecration and disrespect. The reductio ad educatum fallacy would sally forth once again with brazen trumpets and loud clanging symbols. Great is Diana of the Ephesians!