NZIM : EDUCATION Letter for Better Managers – NZIM sends message to incoming government

The New Zealand Institute of Management has vision of an education system that is “coherent, learner focused, supportive, future oriented, fair and rigorous”. But, says NZIM in letter to the new Government, there will be “little improvement in management capability in New Zealand organisations” unless some of the key issues it has identified are addressed. The following are edited extracts and some of the recommendations from the NZIM letter:
Over the past three years the Ministry of Economic Development and NZ Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) have transformed the education and training landscape, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that show developmental potential. The two agencies have promoted range of pilot and targeted programmes designed to identify and support businesses to grow and enter export markets.
One of the most significant initiatives is Project Collaboration. This aims to develop management capability in SMEs through organising, rationalising and promoting the different resources and services currently being provided.
Recommendations
• The processes used by NZ Trade and Enterprise with its enterprise and targeted developmental programmes are expanded and promoted as an effective way of developing management competence and business capability. The programmes are integrated with other educational processes as legitimate and valuable learning pathway.
• Government funding of business development targets not only fast-growth companies with export potential, but also the improvement in capability of companies that support the economy through providing infrastructure and import substitution.

Learning and qualifications
Learning is always an individual matter and is best measured by the learners in terms of the extent to which they are thinking or doing things differently. External measures of learning need to take into account where the learner is at the beginning of the learning event and document changes through the event and after it.
Qualifications provide framework for formal teaching processes and other interventions to occur, and guidelines as to appropriate external standards or benchmarks for the learning that might ensue. The gaining of qualification is not necessarily mark that the student has learnt anything, as the student might already have greater understanding than that provided by the teaching.
In the area of management there is increasing evidence that gaining academic qualifications has little effect on the improvement of management competence, unless the qualifications are embedded in business practice and are assessed through their effectiveness in real business situations.
Recommendations
• Resourcing of education and training takes into account the effectiveness of the teaching and learning processes, and recognises the value of informal work-based programmes as an effective way of developing management capability.
• The effectiveness of teaching programmes and learning interventions is determined not by qualifications or completions, but by the extent to which the programme or intervention meets its objectives and its results in terms of student learning and development. This means that its effectiveness is evaluated also in terms of the effectiveness of teaching and delivery processes.
• All teaching programmes and learning interventions at all levels promote the key competencies of creativity, problem-solving, innovative practice, reflection, evaluation, critique, synthesis, literacy, numeracy, cultural awareness and ethical behaviour.

Complex and incoherent
NZQA was set up in 1989 “to establish consistent approach to the recognition of qualifications in academic and vocational areas”.
NZIM considers it the most important single imperative to move to comprehensive, fair and equitable tertiary qualifications structure, with single funding process that takes into account the value of the programme, its effectiveness and cost, with single process of reporting and accountability. This system needs to be widely understood and to offer students range of pathway choices.
Recommendations
• Simple pathways between National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and non-standards-based qualifications are established on nationwide basis and funding is rationalised and allocated to support any effective programmes.
• national system of credit recognition and transfer between similar qualifications with similar outcomes is developed. This applies across sectors (such as polytechnics and universities) as well as between the NQF and non-framework qualifications. student completing diploma at polytechnic is assured of an agreed amount of credit into appropriate university qualifications.
• The Tertiary Education Commission, the Ministry of Education and NZQA have common policies, common requirements, common databases, common language, common philosophies and regular meetings.

Use of ‘standards’
While standards, when set appropriately, can determine appropriate benchmarks or (in the case of the NQF) minimum acceptable levels of competence for particular task or occupation, they are an inappropriate measure of what people have learnt. When people achieve the standards it doesn’t mean that they have learnt anything, but that they have complied with externally set requirements.
Because NZQA has belief that all aspects of knowledge and skills can be defined in standards, the format of standards, and the compliance requirements, are adopted even in areas where there is no possibility of clear measurable outcomes. As they are formulated by NZQA, standards are inappropriate measures of much of what people do, and they are certainly an inappropriate measure of management and leadership skills.
Recommendations
• NZQA changes its role and approach from being regulator and gatekeeper to one that recognises, facilitates and supports good teaching and learning practices. NZQA desists in any further attempts to convert all education and training to unit standards and instead promotes any programmes that are successful in providing frameworks and incentives for good learning to occur. Audits identify teaching and learning issues in institutions, and support is offered to ensure institutions improve their practices.
• Instead of an inappropriate use of ‘standards’ to measure the broad-based competencies of the liberal senior secondary curriculum, NCEA subject areas are defined in terms of broader, more holistic aims. Assessments should sample student achievement across the subject, rather than assessing every component of range of atomised ‘standards’.
• NCEA constitutes record of student’s total achievement in particular year, rather than being limited to meeting specific standards. It celebrates rather than limits achievement and capability.

Enterprise and management skills
In curriculum planning there needs to be emphasis on skills for our future society. These should include much greater emphasis on information technology, new forms of work, multicultural and globalised society and business, and environmental issues. Because the rate of change is now so great, these issues need to be reflected in current secondary and tertiary curricula. They need to reflect changes in work patterns and philosophies, the growing cultural pluralism of our society, our increasing focus on Asian markets, and environmental and technological changes.

Education policy and decision-making
The Government has made number of interventions into the education system over the past few years, in order to rectify perceived problems of funding, access and quality.
While some of these interventions have been necessary and beneficial, NZIM deplores the process of policy making by intervention without consultation and consideration of deleterious effects the decisions may have. Many of the interventions have had unforeseen downstream effects on the education process, including an inability for institutions to plan adequ

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