Opinion: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Aug 03, 2019
1643 Views

The heart of the Stand Up For SIT campaign was to have the Education Minister Chris Hipkins hear Southland’s voice. To hear our cries of how much his Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) would damage Southland.

Be heard, we said. We were heard. But no one listened.

Thursday’s announcements from the Education Minister have confirmed our worst fears.

We were hopeful there might have been at least some change around the level of regional autonomy – assurances SIT would remain in control of its assets with the mandate to distribute cash reserves as it sees fit.

While the words “cash reserves (over a limit) will be ring fenced for reinvestment in your region” lie on a page, there are no assurances that SIT will be allowed to decide how the money is spent locally.

The RoVE summary, and indeed Hipkins’ announcements, have a shocking lack in detail. For something which is meant to be the biggest shake up in vocational education in decades, perhaps Hipkins would have been met with a less frenzied response if he’d bothered to outline any form of detail in fact, not just rhetoric.

He claims to be collaborative and transparent. He’s been anything but.

There’s also the fact that the RoVE Summary of Change Decisions discounts the 853 submissions sent in by the Stand Up For SIT campaign. That’s nearly 30 per cent of total submissions ignored.

He says 48 per cent of submissions supported the merged body, the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology. But if you count the Stand Up For SIT submissions, only 20 per cent are in support.

Do we not count? Do our voices not matter? Why are Southlanders excluded from the statistics? Because we were brave enough to be vocal and stand up for what we believe in?

It is a gross misappropriation of the democratic process to disregard the voices of the people who will be affected most, simply because it would make the statistics look bad.

I’m reminded of a Mark Twain quote in this instance. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Calling SIT the “Southland Institute of Technology” in this part of the summary speaks volumes. He can’t even get their name right.

We are sick of hearing “we’ve listened carefully” and “that’s something we’ll discuss…” because the Minister quite clearly hasn’t listened and has no intention of discussing. His track record shows this.

Fortunately for students and staff, it’s business as usual. We can at least take solace in the knowledge students can, and are being encouraged, to continue with their study plans and enrol in courses. We can all be confident in SIT’s ability to deliver world-class education across a variety of industries for the time to come.

Since the announcement I have been liaising with Southland’s leaders and stakeholders to formulate a plan on where to from here. We will continue to advocate for change and to ensure SIT is placed in the best possible position for when the merger takes effect, on April 1, 2020.

Southland is furious. We need to protect the future of our region. You will hear us this time, Minister.

By Carla Forbes, Stand Up For SIT, Coordinator.

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