Friday, March 7, 2014

Shane Jones called racist, re his statement about foreign students in NZ universities.

Shane Jones is not one to shy away from making headlines through his controversial statements. Not for the first time, has he drawn attention to an issue; take the 'supergate' comments about alleged Australian bully-boy tactics in regard to local suppliers.
He has hit the 'spot' again;this time he has dared to enter the debate about the increasingly large numbers of foreign students entering New Zealand universities. This comes at a time when the   Herald has published details of New Zealand universities falling outside the top 100 institutions re the quality of their service. It would be very easy to take a simplistic approach to his 'opinion' and label them as some have done---racist, but that is not a balanced view.
Sure, we know that politicians are masters at grabbing headlines in order to attract voters to their party and the 'King ' of that must be Winston Peters, representing the New Zealand First Party. I bet the later  will be ruing the day that he didn't issue the same statement, before Shane did!
But there are some facts that must be addressed, in a manner that is calm and forward thinking so that the needs of our economy are met, and those of New Zealanders in general. The fact that our esteemed educational emporiums need to reach out to overseas markets speaks for itself; it is a matter of funding. To remain open and keep places available for NZ students, they must gather revenue, other than that allocated to them form the NZ tax-payer.
But if that means enrolling students who possibly take longer to adjust, due to language deficits, then perhaps efforts should be made to ensure that higher standards are met, before the students arrive. However, it could be said that the quality of New Zealand students may also be lacking in that regard, if the incidents of 'new' students needing remedial work re their written language skills are true. So---the answer is not a simple as one could believe.
So, before we criticise Shane Jones for his very real fears about the future of access to places in our universities, for New Zealanders, we must look at the bigger future about where we want our universities to move in the future. The 'monetary' model has been pursued for quite some years, so we should not be surprised at this latest publicity.
It is good that New Zealand attracts foreign students, because in many ways they enrich our student population; exposing them to a wider 'world view' and possibly providing a stimulus in the way of competition. Is that not a good thing? Yes, we want access for the largest number of NZ students possible, but they too  must reach the level that is required to function successfully in the higher levels of academia.
Shane Jones should not be vilified for his statement. This is an opportunity to have the discussion, one that is not held back by name calling or emotional responses. If there are problems---address them, but at the same time---politicians--- don't just enter this debate for political purposes alone.