Learning a trade vs getting a degree

By D'Angelo Martin

The percentage of students wanting to study has shown a decrease among Māori, thought to be due to financial concerns but also because of a switch of direction and interest.  

With barely any money left in the pocket after paying for rent, public transport, gas for car and food, students are often left with as little as $20 to live on.

Merran Davis, who is the Interim Chief Executive of Unitec Mt Albert, says, "Currently how we're operating is not working as well as it needs to be for Māori".

Living expenses are just one issue, there are other factors which prevent Māori students from succeeding, according to Davis.

"We try to focus on all aspects of a learner, not just the academic but also the cultural, the physical, the emotional, the spiritual.  If we can provide that support then learners can be far more successful."

Trade education is on the rise in Aotearoa.  Some say it is better to get an apprenticeship than to study for a degree. 

For many Māori, putting food on the table is a priority and higher education comes second.

Glenn Mckay, executive director of Student Success says, "At the end of the day the student makes the final decision but, in terms of picking up a trade and pursuing that pathway, [apprenticeships are] an awesome gateway for Māori as well."

Polytechnics and institutes of technology are in the planning phase of merging.  The goal is to acknowledge and respect the different needs of the different students who will attend while also modernising the structure of the educational institutions.

Davis says that they only have one chance to make things right, not only for Māori but for everybody who is wanting to further their education and study.

"I guess that's the opportunity for the proposed reform...to look at what is working at what isn't working and actually develop a new entity, a new structure which better supports the success of Māori".