Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sex education

New Zealand universities (and other tertiary education providers) had a good shake commotion this week. The Chronicle of Higher Education released a small note about an advertising campaign made by a government education promotion agency: New Zealand Educated, that ignited big reactions when it arrived to the e-mailboxes of people in the sector this week:
New Zealand Educated - Get further away from your parents"What does making out have to do with higher education? A recent advertising campaign sponsored by New Zealand’s higher-education industry draws an intimate connection. According to the ads, going abroad to get your degree means “You’ll Go Far.” Just how far you’ll go is left to the imagination.

New Zealand Educated from baronrojo on Vimeo.

In a steamy hot-tub video, a young, presumably Chinese couple essentially tries to swallow each other’s tonsils. As the camera pulls back, it turns out the couple is not alone. Their disapproving parents, also in the hot tub, are watching the make-out session. The words “Get further away from your parents” flash at the bottom of the screen."
New Zealand Educated - Get further away from your parentsThe infamous video was hosted on several "internet 2.o" video sites like YouTube and DailyMotion as part of an advertising campaign to promote New Zealand universities particularly in Asia, since the number of exchange students coming from China has dropped drastically in recent years. Although this NZ Educated campaign has been running for several months now, it was until the Chronicle's article arrived to NZ universities' staff e-mailboxes, that they reacted in a matter of just a couple of hours to pull down the 3 videos (at least from the most popular sites). By midday they were all gone. But don't worry, you can still watch the ads (probably not for long) at automaticfilms, the company that made the videos. Just click on the director's video portfolios, and select Adam Gunser, who shot the videos.
"The ads ... were developed for Education New Zealand by JWT Auckland by creative director/copywriter Angus Hennah, art director Rod Prsser, copywriters Craig Love, Adam Gunser, and agency producer Megan Robertson. Filming was shot by director Adam Gunser via Automatic Films with producer Camillo Spath." (via)
urban planningI don't know whether to take that with some humor, or to cry in outrage like some people in the tertiary education sector did. As a simple observer, well... the campaign has some sense of humor about reality (let's be honest about that). If the goal of that campaign is simply to get "numbers"... I mean, lots and lots of students, no matter how, or their academic commitment, then I guess it's a good campaign. Nevertheless that's exactly the problem! (Most) Universities nowadays do NOT care about the quality of education, they just care about recruiting "numbers"... their business is not about education, is about... well... business : Making money, numbers, statistics and collecting hefty fees. Just look at the picture... the urban planer or architect who did this, has a Bachelor degree that is worth one square of a toilet paper.

enjoy-o-meter NZ EducatedUniversities are victims of the "user centered design" approach. Where user satisfaction is measured on student's surveys that serve only to check how "happy" they are, or how much fun they're having. Academic performance is no longer relevant, only student's happiness is. Check out the level meter categories that NZ Educated main page indicate as enjoyable while studying in NZ: snow, surfing, city buzz, country side, hiking and biking, art & culture. Well, at least they put a slider for art and culture! The problem with this approach, is that some traditional studies (schools) are closing down because their numbers are too low to be profitable, while some other studies, the ones we call in Mexico "MMC" ("Until I Get Married") are just like Alfredo Varela used to say: "if they enroll, and don't die, they'll graduate".

Just some few days ago, I was wondering how many students fail their academic terms nowadays, compared to how it was, let's say 10 or 20 years ago. Most statistics only show "graduation rates" or "tertiary attainment" rates. But how many (of those) are actually failing because they don't meet the academic standard? I know that my generation started with 64 students, and only 12 graduated on schedule, and probably 8 or 10 graduated one or two semesters afterwards. The rest of them changed to other programs, or just gave up studying at some point. Times Higher Education concurs:
Universities "don't fail enough people" and are setting pass marks too low, panels set up by the Government to gauge student opinion have heard. Government expansion targets were blamed for stretching university budgets and for large class sizes, reports of the events released by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills show. "Assessment is not tough enough: 40 per cent to pass is too low" "There are students who don't even know how to use the library by their third year. This kind of approach will only be counterproductive in the long run, because it'll devalue degrees"
I had one of such illiterate students when I was teaching at Unitec! You see, that's the problem when you have an education policy of "No Dewd Left Behind"... any "dude" will eventually graduate, that's if they don't die first... or get caught by their parents making out in a bathtub, in which case they'll end up married, homeless or dead.

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