Friday, July 24, 2009

It's been a while!!

Well now, I certainly have failed my own test so far as regular postings are concerned, but here we go again - and with a mid year resolution to post at least weekly!!

What, then, has finally got me motivated to post this week, you may well ask? I am pleased to say it was a good news event - the announcement of the National Tertiary Teacher Excellence Awards at Parliament on Tuesday night. I was at the ceremony, both as a member of the board of Ako Aotearoa, the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence which administers the awards, and the very proud employer of one of the awardees - our very own Judy Magee. And , of course, Judy's award is the third in a row for the Polytechnic, following on from the successes of Margot Barton and Adrian Woodhouse in 2007 and 2008 respectively. There was also an awardee from the University of Otago, which has had 4 winners in the last 3 years if my memory serves me well. What's that about Dunedin as the education city?

But it was not just Judy's success that has motivated me - it was the timely reminder about what is so good about working in education: the teaching and most importantly the learning. You see, all 10 awardees, and all those who have gone before are chosen for national recognition because of their learner focus - they are all highly student centred in their teaching. They exemplify all that is good about what we do. Thus, the excellence awards are as motivating for me as graduation ceremonies, where we celebrate student success. And I was certainly in need of motivation!!!!!

What made the awards so uplifting for me is that they came along in the context of a polytechnic sector that is taking a battering - by government and officials alike. We are constantly under attack for being inefficient, not giving value for money and for the sins of the past. It is hard to believe that "radio waiata", "twilight golf" and "coolIT" are all over 5 years old. Yet those who wield the power in Wellington act as if they all occurred last month! Even in the context of a severe recession I struggle to understand why any business owner would deliberately torpedo the prospects of their own businesses being successful. But that is what our owners are doing - withdrawing large amounts of funding from a sector already severely underfunded, obviously run down and from a facilities and resources perspective a joke when we compare our infrastructure with that of our international competitors.

Why is it that as their response to the recession our competitors in the global education market place are increasing their investment in polytechnic type education, whilst our response is to slash and burn? I think it has something to do with the fact that in other countries governments know that the best response to unemployment is to invest in building the skills of the unemployed. Here, we get crocodile tears and disinvestment: " believe me, we really, truly value vocational education and training, but we just cannot afford it". Well, actions and inactions speak much louder than words!

But let's not end on a moan! I finished up the week enjoying a small function in our refurbished Student Centre. This is now a fabulous facility - no more than our students deserve, of course. But what is really exciting is that the new facility will see hospitality training happening in a real life context. I am looking forward to my first, of many, meals in the new training restaurant. And I also look forward to another coffee ( having had my first on Thursday) at the Common Room in George St - our new Community Learning Centre. Congratulations to those who have turned this former internet cafe into such an attractive learning environment - again blending education and business.