No one is more concerned about the future of higher education than the staff members of the institutions that provide it. Photo / EVP
When we send our children to school, knowing that they will learn something, we benefit from the education of other New Zealanders.
When we walk across a bridge or a building and it doesn’t collapse, we are benefiting from someone else’s upbringing. When my appendix nearly burst a few years ago, requiring a week of intensive care in the hospital, my family and I clearly benefited from educating others.
This is the problem of education. Although it is something that a particular person may choose to pursue, this education eventually spills over into our communities to benefit us all.
These benefits could look like better-designed cities, professional and compassionate healthcare, or innovative new technologies. It’s also like the movies and TV we laugh and cry at, the music we dance to, and the clothes we wear.
Education is not always given in a classroom. Our community spaces, churches, galleries, venues and theaters are centers of knowledge sharing. Many will point out that the advent of the Internet – itself a product of education – has enabled all of us to learn without attachment to any institution.
That said, there is a reason why we tend to intentionally organize the delivery of education, through institutions. These are the places of learning that are designed to enable the search for best practices, the application of the scientific method, conduct sound criticism and draw on the most recent knowledge of the country and the world.
These institutions not only serve young people who seek to advance their understanding beyond the building blocks of the compulsory sector, but also the vast number of us who choose to retrain, upgrade or pursue a passion later on. in life.
Universities and polytechnics, like any organization, cannot hold all the knowledge and expertise, but they are precisely the organizations that every nation in the world has developed and invested in to ensure access to learning and development all throughout life.
This investment, however, has long been lacking in Aotearoa, New Zealand. In the 1980s and 1990s, as Labor and national governments moved to burn down our public institutions in favor of corporate sensibility, our model for funding higher education shifted from the possibility of accessible learning to cost accounting and starve investment in our people and communities.
The logical consequence of such an approach is the suppression of wages and the deterioration of the conditions of the people who work in these institutions.
That’s why several thousand academic staff at our country’s eight universities are on strike — for the first time in 20 years.
You should care because they are the people who teach and train our social workers, midwives, engineers, nurses, computer programmers, doctors and literal teachers.
Those who work in our higher education pass on the skills that, in turn, feed our elementary, middle and high schools. It is the students of higher education, in all its forms, who are building the houses to solve the housing crisis, researching and implementing climate action, who are at the service of mental and physical health.
The privilege of being a government minister is also the responsibility to intervene when things are difficult.
In the early 2000s, Sir Michael Cullen intervened on behalf of the Labor-led government to break a stalemate in higher education pay and conditions.
The Greens support the Tertiary Education Union’s calls for the government to take these same steps today.
No one is more concerned about the future of higher education than the staff members of the institutions that provide it. These employees are precisely the people who should be at the table to help decide on strategies and budgets, because they are the ones who will execute them.
If, instead, we allow our higher education sector to wither away with more resources and job cuts, we will all be the poorest for it.
Chlöe Swarbrick of the Green Party is the MP for Auckland Central.