Wairarapa is a small provincial community of around 44,000 people. Even given the challenges presented by sparse population density, the board of REAP Wairarapa believes our region should be able to lead Aotearoa in every learning outcome statistic.
We believe in lifelong education and learning for all ages at all stages. We are confident that a community that leads in learning will be progressive and cohesive, and will punch above its weight in employment and economic outcomes.
We want to see Wairarapa become a community that has a learning culture ingrained —a community that has great expectations of and great respect and support for both learners and education providers. We want all parts of the community to see themselves as part of the educational effort.
The REAP Wairarapa board believes that if all the ‘players’ in the region pull together, and we coordinate our efforts, we can achieve this, and we will see:
- high expectations creating a more insistent and, at the same time, supportive ‘demand side’;
- more enthusiastic and focused learners;
- increased demand from better and more widely-educated young people for better opportunities in the local economy;
- high expectations feeding high outcomes, feeding even higher expectations: a classic chicken and egg scenario;
- an abundance of informal opportunities for people to access responsive and just-in-time learning as their needs and circumstances change;
- everyone in the community sharing responsibility for every learner’s success: a more cohesive community; and
- more people participating in creative as well as technical and knowledge-based occupations, both paid and unpaid.
The board is confident that if Wairarapa leads Aotearoa in terms of learning outcomes, it is likely that there will be a huge range of social, cultural and economic benefits.
In terms of economic outcomes:
- businesses will have little trouble attracting skilled workers; leading to
– more productive and higher value businesses; and
– better paid employees generating more wealth in the community; and
- the region will be an attractive place for new businesses, particularly businesses requiring technical, creative and professional skills and knowledge. Being immersed in a learning community, our primary industries could see:
– a greater supply of work-ready farm employees;
– greater and faster application of knowledge and added-value process and products; and
– faster establishment of value-adding industries.
Improvements in business and in community wealth are likely to have flow-on effects and create new demand. For example:
more and higher-value professional and technical businesses can create greater need and opportunities for people to interact with rural organisations in, increasing demand for services such as rail and airlines to and from the region; and
greater community wealth will create a demand for, and better provide for improvements in infrastructure such as roads, broadband and housing.
The board knows that REAP cannot achieve these outcomes acting alone. We know that other Wairarapa organisations, notably Masterton District Council, Masterton Trust Lands Trust, Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitāne also have community education strategies which have much in common with our goals. We are convinced that through a coordinated, collective approach we can turn our dreams into reality.
The first steps for REAP Wairarapa in this work will be to coordinate a community-wide effort, aimed at taking literacy and numeracy rates to the head of national statistics.