Your kids might be dunces in the English class-room – but hey, in tourism they could get an A-plus

Reading, writing, arithmetic and – tripping?

Or tourism, if you prefer.

The inclusion of tourism as a subject in our educational institutions no doubt is appreciated by many parents with kids who will never become brain surgeons.

But it was never in the curriculum when Alf went to school, and he’s bound to say he thinks it shouldn’t be there now.

But hey – sad to say, classical scholarship is no longer big deal in our education system.

Dammit, you can go to Victoria University and come out with a bloody degree in tourism management.

VUW’s Bachelor of Tourism Management (BTM)

…is designed to prepare you for a position of management and responsibility in the business of tourism. You’ll be studying how tourism works, how tourism businesses operate, the behaviour of the tourist, and the impacts of visitors on a country. You’ll be looking in-depth at the industry, so you can enter it with a firm grasp of how it has grown, how it works, and how it is continuing to develop.

As tourism has blossomed as a legitimate subject for university study, those who are good at it can climb the academic ladder and become professors of tourism.

A professor tourism?


Dunno if it’s a particularly challenging climb.

Dunno, either, about degrees in underwater basket-weaving or whether we have professors of underwater basket-weaving. But courses are bound to be available somewhere for those who struggle with subjects historically incorporated among the academic disciplines such as Latin, history, mathematics and what-have-you.

But tourism is among soft subjects that help lift school success rates.

At least, that’s what we learn from a Stuff report (here) about new research findings.

These findings show schools are shuffling Maori and Pacific Island students into “easy” subjects to boost NCEA results.

A mentoring group’s report revealed disadvantaged students were on an “educational dead-end” as softer subjects tended to shut the door on tertiary study and good jobs.

The Sunday Star-Times harks back to a report last week, when we learned that the number of students studying science and maths has fallen in the past decade, while subjects like sports, tourism and drama have risen.

The Education Ministry denies schools are behind the push, but the Government has admitted there is a problem. Education Minister Hekia Parata cited government research in May that raised concerns about a mismatch between Pacific Island student ambitions and the subjects they chose.

This research comes from a mentoring group which has named itself I Have a Dream.

It followed pupils from an Auckland school through to year 13 and found the mismatch was because Maori and Pacific Island students were steered into soft subjects.

The Sunday Star-Times brings us up to date by saying –

Last week, as many teenagers flocked to the mall these holidays, five girls from the mentoring group gathered at a cabin south of Auckland. Gripping their university application forms, the girls spoke of a “vibe” in classrooms towards them, as if teachers did not see a point in trying.

All five said they would have dropped out without the mentoring. One, Salote Makasin, said she felt pressured to take “dumb” subjects. “We just thought about passing NCEA, not what subjects to take. By year 13 it’s too late, you couldn’t get into those [university-required] subjects. They should have given us advice at year 11.”

The students said their parents were unable to give advice because English was a second language, or they didn’t understand NCEA.

With help from mentors, Makasin has raised her sights.

She no longer aspires to become a hairdresser. She aims to become a doctor.

The newspaper has talked with a Dream project co-ordinator, Ant Backhouse, who said schools treated softer subjects as a dumping ground for struggling students.

“Schools are accountable for the results and each department is accountable. It’s probably a lot easier to put a kid in a subject they know they are going to pass, as opposed to taking risks and trying to give them the support they need.”

Pressure to have good results came from the ministry, and the fear of league tables, he said.

This is reinforced by Secondary Principals’ Association president Patrick Walsh.

He said he had heard of some students, particularly Maori and Pacific Islanders, being put into courses seen as easy.

And the newspaper has dipped into a recent Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs report.

This report also cited evidence of teachers directing students into non-University Entrance NCEA courses, limiting their options for further education.

A report at Stuff earlier this year (here) spelled out the advantages – in income terms – of aspiring to be a doctor rather than a hairdresser.

While bonds and term deposits mature in a few years or even months, investments in education pay dividends for decades.

Done right, education pays for itself within a couple of years. Even freshly minted out the university gates graduates still make a good whack more than their NCEA-holding counterparts.

This item referred to a 2009 report by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Education which found that one year out of study, young graduates with bachelors degrees earned a median $12,000 more than someone with high school qualifications.

After three years out in the workforce, that gap had widened to $20,000.

The 2009 Statistics NZ report found that graduates specialising in medicine earned 2.59 times more three years post-study than humanities students. Other high-earning fields were vet studies (1.61 times more), law (1.47), electrical engineering (1.44), pharmacy (1.43), accounting (1.42) and computer science (1.36).

The most gratifying bit of the report said –

At the bottom end of the scale graduates studying tourism, performing arts, visual arts, and graphic and design earned 10 to 20 per cent less.

That’s as it should be.

One Response to Your kids might be dunces in the English class-room – but hey, in tourism they could get an A-plus

  1. robertguyton says:

    Tourism…that’s John Key’s chosen field of focus, isn’t it…

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