The government cut funding to Adult Community Education in 2009. The number of schools being funded fell from 212 to just 23. More than 150,000 New Zealanders who once attended night school now don’t have the opportunity. Great swathes of NZ no longer have schools offering courses as they once did.
The enormous value of community education was acknowledged by Bill English in 2005, while Education Spokesperson. He warned of the bureaucrats who wanted to take it away.
Here’s the first few lines and last paragraph of a speech he gave :
Community education has a long and honourable history. I recall my mother going off to night time classes in furniture restoration, a quiet space in the busy life of a household of 12 children. In a painting class I visited a few years ago a man told about how the tutor had changed his life by challenging him, teaching him and making him finish the picture. He described how he had become part of a warm community. There are thousands of stories about how human needs are met by the collective and aspirational activity of learning.
A great and warm story, experiences that many of us have also discovered … until a year or two ago that is. Now those sorts of tales are thin on the ground. All for saving $13.5 million.
Here’s how he finishes:
I support community based less formal learning opportunities. I want to work with you to retain the funding arrangement that allowed community learning to be so successful for so long, and develop new mechanisms with the same qualities if your needs can be better met. In the end community learning should be driven by the community. It is not enough just to engage your organisations in consultation. You need the authority to make the decisions that make a difference to the community and the people you know. I want to make sure you have it.
He didn’t stop Tolley putting in the boot, despite being Finance Minister. Pity he didn’t reflect on those warm memories then.