Free Post School Education

The Labour Party Manifesto included the following item: “Labour will progressively introduce 3 years of free post-school education, allowing access to university, polytechnic or on-job training for young New Zealanders and those who have not studied before.

Now that Labour is forming a government one assumes that tucked away in a dark room on The Terrace TEC already has a team preparing material to implement the policy. This notwithstanding Labour’s view that “the Tertiary Education Commission is not operating as it was envisaged by Labour when it was established in 2003.” After all who else is going to get the policy implemented for 2018, and I assume that providers are already being asked by prospective students “Do I have to pay fees next year?

The first thing that TEC team will need to do is get guidance from the new Minister on the details of the policy. The various pre-election documents published by Labour have little detail and actually raise some pretty interesting questions. Here are just four.

  • Are PTEs covered? The Manifesto says “allowing access to university, polytechnic or on-job training for young New Zealanders and those who have not studied before” but another document published by Labour states “Accelerating the three years’ free policy, starting with one year fees free full-time equivalent for everyone starting tertiary education or training for the first time from 1 January 2018”.
  • What exactly does “fees free” mean? For example are compulsory course costs covered, or just tuition fees?
  • What is the precise definition of “formal post-school education” in the sentence “Labour will ensure that 3 years of free post-school education is available to adult learners who have not participated in formal post-school education in the past”?
  • What are 3 years? Are we talking about three years (as a period of time) or three EFTS of study being free to cover part-time study?

Anyhow, being a helpful soul, I would suggest that the TEC team consider what George Bernard Shaw said: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” History is this case being National’s 1991 Study Right policy implemented in extreme haste and at great cost. Why, there was even a field in the SDR Course Enrolment file called “STUDYRT”. Maybe this field could be resuscitated?

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