John Scott on Bahrain Case

September 11th 2014 at 7:05pm, By Dave Guerin

Earlier today, I ran a post on a court case involving John Scott, former CPIT CE, that resulted in a conviction in Bahrain (see story). John contacted me in the last hour and gave me his views on the issue (I emailed him just before publishing the original post). He has since forwarded me an email, and I have quoted the body of that in full below, as it provides the other side of the story.

I  first heard of this through an email from a friend  2 days ago. There has been no contact with me from anyone in Bahrain. There have been no charges and no indication of any court case, so it is  all somewhat bizarre. I left Bahrain in early 2012. Needless to say but it is all a complete fabrication without one shred of truth in it.

Before  I resigned the Polytechnic had been subjected to a wide range of audits and nothing like this had appeared in any of the reports. Before I received my settlement payment from the Poly all outstanding financial issues had been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chairman and the Ministry.

However in the context of the aftermath of the uprisings in Bahrain the  ongoing attacks by the Minister of Education are not surprising. This is about discrediting the Polytechnic and the educational initiatives put in place by the Crown Prince of Bahrain. The initiatives targeted education because the Minister was doing such a bad job. Bahrain Polytechnic was set up outside his direct control and he had no impact on the Polytechnic until after the uprisings.

When the Crown Prince failed in his attempt to reconcile the factions by negotiations and dialogue, the Prime Minister and the “Hawks” as they are known among the more liberal Bahraini, took charge  and the reprisals started. This included the disbanding of the Economic Development Board as had been set up by the Crown Prince, the abandoning of most of the reforms and the introduction of very tough iron fist approach reprisals. The Polytechnic Board was replaced with strict Sunni control, and there is an ongoing discrediting of the earlier reforms as in the eyes of many of the old guard, the Crown Prince and his reforms were in large part responsible for the uprisings.

The Minister of Education Majid Al Nuami is a vicious and vindictive ex -brigadier who knows nothing of value about education and who was responsible for the targeting and expelling of students, almost all Shia, who he claimed were ‘dangerous” and a threat to the regime. He tried to force me to sack Shia staff, especially those in senior positions and I refused. When an independent report criticised his actions, all students were reinstated and the rhetoric was that the state should apologise. No one did except me. I invited all the students back, met with them all and apologised for their unjust treatment. From that point, the minister and his minions went after me.

However, I’m just a pawn in their bigger game which is to discredit the Pro-reform faction and the Crown Prince, They can’t come out and criticise the CP in person, or even his judgement in initiating the reforms. They won’t attack the Board of trustees so they go after the Ex-pats and the organisation, the Polytechnic.

The actual details of the charges are also ridiculous. I had travel allowances and an expense account within my contract signed off and approved monthly by the board. Maybe they are claiming it is these that constitute the ‘charges’.

I wouldn’t know as they have not asked me, nor have I seen any details  related to this case.”

 

Dave Guerin

Which ex-Poly CE has been Sentenced to Jail?

September 11th 2014 at 2:33pm, By Dave Guerin

A report from Bahrain stated that John Scott, ex-CE of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, had been sentenced to jail for 5 years for alleged embezzlement. The Gulf Daily News had the following report on Tuesday. UPDATE 7pm: John Scott has provided a detailed response - read it.

“FORMER Bahrain Polytechnic chief executive John Scott was sentenced to five years in jail yesterday for embezzlement.

However, the 69-year-old from New Zealand was not in the High Criminal Court to hear the verdict and is believed to be abroad.

Judges found him guilty of using polytechnic bank cards to pay for his personal expenses during his tenure from 2008 to 2011. The violation was uncovered by the Financial Audit Bureau, which formed a committee to monitor his spending based on an order from Education Minister Dr Majid Al Nuaimi. An auditing expert was also appointed by the Public Prosecution to review the accounts.

Prosecutors said he spent BD4,365 of the polytechnic’s money on alcohol and food and withdrew another BD400 in cash for himself. He was also accused of spending BD7,772 on plane tickets for himself and his wife, while he also owes the university BD130 that he stole after refunding a plane ticket.”

Since the Bahrain Dinar is worth NZ$3.24, the 12,667 dinars cited in the story would be worth NZ$41,041.

I covered the upheavals at Bahrain Polytechnic in March 2012, at which point a financial inquiry had been called for. I understand John Scott is back in NZ. As you might expect, comments on this story will be moderated closely.

Dave Guerin

Startup Weekend Education – 54 Hours to New Ideas

September 3rd 2014 at 12:17pm, By Dave Guerin

I love playing with new ideas and new business so it was a pleasure to be invited in as a mentor for Wellington’s Startup Weekend on Education last weekend. It’s 54 hours of craziness for the startup teams, but I got away lightly with about 24 hours at the venue.

People have 1 minute to pitch an idea on Friday night – the ideas that attract a team get worked on for the next 54 hours. The end result is a pitch to judges on Sunday night, which is judged on:

  • business model (how will it work);
  • validation (do customers support the idea?);
  • execution (have they produced a product?); and
  • for last weekend’s focus, educational impact.

You might wonder what can be developed over a weekend, but it’s an impressive process.

  • By 1am on Friday night, the teams had mostly agreed a plan and set out team roles (some hadn’t, and some pivoted, or changed their focus, over the weekend).
  • On Saturday morning, teams were reaching out to social media and doing interviews around Wellington to test customer feedback. This feedback process would continue through the weekend, as teams built landing pages (promoted via social media and Google AdWords) to collect emails and further test ideas. Mentors were also able to help connect people with potential customers. Validation mattered, because a startup idea only matters if someone else is willing to pay/engage.
  • By Saturday night, teams were ready for their first practice pitch to mentors, a process they would repeat twice more on Sunday. The criticism was strong but supportive. The teams redeveloped, or merely tweaked, their business between the practice pitches.
  • On Saturday and Sunday, the designers and developers on the teams swung into action, developing prototype websites (and sometimes just mock-ups of websites for the pitch presentations…)
  • Over the whole weekend, the best teams had close collaborations between those doing market research, competitor scans, design, development, pitches, sales strategies and financial models.
  • One of the participants has written her own experience of the weekend, which is a great read.

By Sunday night, 12 exciting ideas had developed into some exciting businesses. The links below are often to 1-page sites, and don’t reflect the quality and depth of the final pitches.

  1. StudyNinja – school exam study plans
  2. Tiputech – helping autistic youth into the tech industry
  3. Jobteam – putting together a team to fill a 40 hour role
  4. Making Tracks – showcasing the journeys taken by inspiring Kiwis
  5. Monkey C#, Monkey Do – teaching coding
  6. Orientation Aotearoa – a gap year in NZ
  7. School Comms – helping schools get the message to parents
  8. Banqer – interactive financial literacy for primary school students
  9. Groov.r – learning to dance, pivoted to helping guys meet girls (and got the whole pitch crowd of 150 or so dancing in a break)
  10. IdeaVolt – kids solving real world problems by being guided through an innovation process
  11. Rover – live lecture feedback tool (no link, but they had a live demonstration at their pitch)
  12. I know What I Like – helping improve engagement of art gallery visitors (no link)

Banqer was the winner on the night, having tested their idea with teachers, and gained serious interest from banks – their tagline was “become a classroom tycoon”. If you want to see how people reacted to the various pitches, you can check out #swedunz on Twitter from 5-8pm on Sunday 31 Aug.

While there was a winner on the night, what impressed me most was the intensity of the learning experience for the teams, and the positive attitude that they showed. Not everything goes well when you throw together a team of strangers, and add time pressure, but people worked through the pain.

For me, it was magic to see the teams develop, and they inspired me to get on with some ideas I have simmering away.

If Startup Weekend interests you, get involved! It is a global phenomenon, with 12 other events running last weekend alone, from Sarajevo to Bangalore.

Dave Guerin

Guest Post – The Facts about Funding for PTEs

August 15th 2014 at 1:42pm, By Guest Post

This guest post is from Feroz Ali, Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI). ED Blog welcomes guest contributions.

Following on from my previous opinion piece defending the educational performance of commercial and not-for-profit Private Training Establishments (PTEs) and the ability of the private sector to contribute to better outcomes for New Zealand, I now want to examine the Tertiary Education Union’s (TEU’s) comments regarding taxpayer funding for PTEs.

In general, taxpayer funding going to PTEs (particularly commercial PTEs) seems to make the TEU very “angry”.  National President Lesley Francey told the 2013 TEU conference “we’ve got a lot to be angry about.”  In particular, she said “it makes me angry that our taxes are being used to create private profit and not public good.”  I would argue strongly that the education that PTEs provide to learners and graduates is a clear example of public good.  Again, we should be focussing on outcomes and not ownership.

This attitude is not new.  The TEU’s negative view of PTEs was clearly set out in their 2011 policy on PTE funding.  The key section reads:

“The TEU does not support public funding for private training establishments.  We believe that New Zealand’s small population base and constrained national tertiary education budget renders public funding of private training establishments economically inefficient and educationally unsound.  Continued public funding of PTEs has resulted in duplication of provision, inefficient use of limited resources, and the establishment of providers that lack economic and educational viability…  Continued public funding of private training establishments may eventually lead to the erosion of our national system of public tertiary education institutions. First and foremost therefore the TEU will always advocate for public funding to be allocated to public tertiary education institutions.”

One of the main priorities in Te Kaupapa Whaioranga – the TEU’s current Blueprint for Tertiary Education – is “spending public, taxpayer funding on public education not private companies.”  Literally, recommendation 1.1 states the Government should focus on “ensuring taxpayer funding goes to publicly owned tertiary education providers.”   The 2011 policy bluntly stated “the TEU does not support public funding for private training establishments” and, while the 2013 version is slightly more nuanced, that appears to remain the ultimate policy aim.

If implemented, this policy would send a message to 75,079 PTE domestic learners and 11,994 international students (in 2013) that “you chose your education provider incorrectly and will therefore receive no Government support for your studies.”  The message to thousands of PTE staff would be “sorry, maybe you should apply for a job at the Polytech where the roll is declining.”  In reality, the Government provides relatively modest support for PTEs (given the $4 billion plus tertiary education budget) and in return receives a generally strong return on their investment.

There are three key assertions in the TEU’s position which I wish to dispute.  They assert that PTEs are “economically inefficient.”  I believe the opposite is the case.  PTEs are often required to provide the same (or better) education for less funding support.  The funding rates have traditionally been lower and PTEs have not had access to large numbers of supporting funding pools or capital funding.  ITI is keen to document this and later in the year we hope to publish research confirming that PTEs provide genuine value for money for the Government.

The second TEU assertion is that PTEs are educationally unsound.  Putting aside the huge professional insult to all PTE staff, including, we are told, some TEU members, this cannot be allowed to stand.  PTEs perform strongly in the universal Educational Performance Indicators (EPI) and our results compare favourably to public providers.  PTEs are also subject to NZQA’s External Evaluation and Review (EER) process, TEC’s Financial Viability checks, as well as registration and accreditation processes.  PTEs are a heavily scrutinised and quality assured sector.  Many of these requirements do not apply to public providers.

Finally, there is the claim that “continued public funding of private training establishments may eventually lead to the erosion of our national system of public tertiary education institutions.”   This massively over-states the amount of taxpayer money which goes to PTEs.  Any money “saved” from disestablishing PTEs would be quickly swallowed up in the public education system and I doubt it would make much impact for providers, far less students.

Additionally, we consider the diversity of PTEs to be a strength – they are able to work in specialist fields of study and provide a range of learning environments.  Small class sizes and practical training are also positive in many fields.  These are all reasons why PTEs are consistently ranked highly by employers in Business NZ surveys.

In the next post I will examine the realities of the new contestable funding process for Level One and Level Two qualifications and debunk the deliberate myth that funding has been cut.

Regards

Feroz Ali, Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI)

Guest Post – Standing up for Private Training Establishments

July 31st 2014 at 10:20am, By Dave Guerin

This guest post is from Feroz Ali, Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI). ED Blog welcomes guest contributions.

In Budget 2014, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, confirmed that private providers would be funded at the same level as public providers for delivering the same courses.  There had previously been a gap, sometimes significant, in the funding rates and Minister Joyce worked carefully over several Budgets to remove this discrimination.

The move was understandably welcomed by the Private Training Establishment (PTE) sector as it eliminated an inequality which was created largely for ideological reasons.  Private institutions feel it is fair that students receive an equal amount of Government support for their education.  The focus should be outcomes for the learners, communities and employers – not the ownership status of the institution.

Not everyone was quite so happy.  Perhaps the most vociferous group criticising the PTE sector is the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) which represents a number of staff at tertiary institutions, including some PTEs.  In a series of opinion pieces, I’m going to tackle a few myths about private tertiary education which are perpetuated by the TEU.

In this piece, I’m going to look at the TEU’s view of the PTE sector and private education.  I take issue with their characterisation of the sector being “for profit” and their central assertion that private ownership and/or commercial activities are incompatible with quality tertiary education.

The TEU usually refers to PTEs as “private for profit companies”, “private companies who make a profit off students” or even “private companies that want to make a profit from selling education.”  While TEU does occasionally concede there “there are some great PTEs in New Zealand and some great staff working in them,” these glimmers of praise are almost always followed by a “but” or a caveat which shows what they really think about PTEs in general.  The language is hostile and loaded.

Private tertiary education is described by the TEU as “ensuring profit for business owners or shareholders,” and as shareholders trading education “back and forth in the hope of making a profit.”  Sandra Grey argues most PTEs are companies which “believe education is a service to be bought and sold for a profit.”

I take great issue with that characterisation.  Firstly, not all PTEs are companies or for-profit so the assertion is immediately false.  There is a wide range of ownership structures in our sector including charitable trusts, community trusts, not-for-profit organisations and charities.  These non-commercial providers are sometimes acknowledged by the TEU who seems prepared to give them ‘honorary’ public education status, presuming they don’t get in the way of public providers. Their “place” in the TEU scheme of things is described as “supporting the public education system.”

Secondly, even in commercial operations it is important to remember that PTEs are first and foremost educational providers.  Some certainly look to make a modest profit but running a PTE is not an easy way to make money.  People run PTEs and work in PTEs because of what they achieve for learners, the community and employers.  This involves working efficiently, in a similar way to universities and polytechnics that have to ensure their books stay in the black and they meet the requirement to run a surplus.

TEU head Lesley Francey is adamant that private tertiary education “cannot and must not replace the public system.”  I would agree.  I think everyone would.  The diversity of our tertiary education sector is a strength.  There is absolutely no suggestion from the private sector to take over – even if such a move was actually possible.  However, the TEU sees a deliberate Government policy “directly transferring both students and public money out of high quality public institutions, and into private companies.”  We see a Government supporting student choice and educational success, wherever it occurs.

The main problem the TEU has with PTEs is that they seem to believe the private or commercial model is fundamentally incompatible with education.  By definition, they believe no PTE can deliver education to the same standard as public tertiary education.  In their submission opposing changes to university governance, the position is laid bare:

“Those working in the tertiary education sector understand that tertiary education institutions have distinctive characteristics that differentiate them from organisations in the private or commercial sector, such as the need to maintain close relationships with the communities they serve…”

I disagree with this claim.  Private providers have a strong record of building close relationships with communities and with industry.  Not only is this the best way to raise educational performance, but PTEs have to remain connected and relevant because, unlike public providers, we can be allowed to fail.  The Government will not bail us out of any predicament.  Relationships are critical for PTEs and they have every incentive to perform.

Next time I will examine the issue of Government funding for PTEs, including new contestable funding at the foundation level which has caused some controversy.

Regards,

Feroz Ali - Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI)

You won’t believe the size of this artwork

May 30th 2014 at 12:30pm, By Dave Guerin

Sorry for the click-bait headline, but this 40m by 11m mural deserved it J I saw this great mural at NZ Management Academies’ Sylvia Park campus when I visited recently. Back in April ITI put a story on their newsletter about it and then I found the video of the mural’s creation. It’s just the thing for Friday viewing.

 

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