Written by Colleen Young, MIT Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways / PhD Candidate
Seven out of ten of our senior secondary students in New Zealand will not attend University. Increasing student failure and youth unemployment has focused educators on creating multiple pathways with increased programme choices for senior secondary students. Student failure should not be an option for any of our senior secondary students. However, pathways development requires collaboration.
We know that providing increased choices and student-centred learning rather than what works best for an organisation or continuing with the “status quo” requires new ways of working and problem solving in the secondary-tertiary space. The need for educators to collaborate with other providers, share resources and create individual learning pathways for each learner is paramount, to enable improved student success, if we are going to achieve the 85% government “Better Public Service Target” of all 18 year olds achieving NCEA Level 2 by 2017.
High School leaders and management staff are now beginning to build sustainable partnerships with other educational providers with the assistance of the newly established Youth Guarantee Networks. Although over the last decade secondary schools have introduced Gateway and STAR programmes which have required staff to collaborate with tertiary providers and/or employers, the challenge now is to be able to implement these types of initiatives on a much larger scale. Youth Guarantee programmes such as Trades Academies, Tertiary Fees Free Places are examples of collaboration between secondary and tertiary providers over the past few years. For example, New Zealand’s first Tertiary High School (THS), (School of Secondary-Tertiary Studies) situated at the Manukau Institute of Technology was established in February 2010 with the aim of improving student outcomes for students identified as disengaging in Year 10 and likely to fail in a traditional school setting in Year 11. Implementing a mixed secondary-tertiary program has allowed for THS students to undertake NCEA Level 1, 2 and 3 while simultaneously gaining credits towards a tertiary qualification at MIT. Now, the THS is in its fourth year and the indications are that the THS students’ achievement, progression and transition into postsecondary education and/or work are demonstrating huge success. The THS student success has not just happened without enormous effort on everyone’s part. It required huge collaboration from all parties: the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Commission, Manukau Institute of Technology, surrounding secondary schools in the southern Auckland region, New Zealand Qualifications Framework, local community, whanau and students. But, there was a trade-off. For schools to identify students at risk of disengaging and to encourage them to apply to the THS, they knew that the school was at risk of losing a percentage of the funding for that student. This required faith and trust and a student-centred approach to managing the schools funds. The THS shows us that with determination and a student-centred approach that all other challenges such as funding or duty of care can be solved with the key stakeholders’ willingness to put student success at the top of the agenda.
In an effort to improve collaboration amongst the various secondary-tertiary providers and the employers, the Ministry of Education has been establishing Youth Guarantee Networks throughout New Zealand with the key focus to create partnerships between schools, tertiary education providers, and training organisations and for this group to focus on developing a collaborative approach to increasing NCEA Level 2 achievement rates in their communities. In future, the Ministry of Education wants to also work with industry leaders, business advocacy groups and employers with the intention of improving the skills and competencies to respond to the local communities employment needs.
In addition, the five Vocational Pathways (Social and Community Services, Manufacturing and Technology, Construction and Infrastructure, Primary Industries and Services Industries) developed in collaboration with the Industry Training Federation, released by the Ministry of Education are an important tool to assist students when making their choices for their future career pathway. Once fully understood by both students and education providers the five Vocational Pathways can be used not only as an achievement record and assisting with senior secondary school programme choices but the aim is to also use the Vocational Pathways as a diagnostic tool at an earlier age (perhaps Year 9) to ensure students see the benefit and purpose to their learning programme over time.
While there are some challenges faced by all providers such as a lack of understanding of the Vocational Pathways, funding frameworks and what pathways should be introduced by each Youth Guarantee Network, for which students and by which provider, it is crucial for us as educators to put the student first in all of our discussions. Working collaboratively will assist our senior secondary school students on their pathway to successful transition from school to tertiary and into employment. Let’s try not to use the silo approach and continue to work together for the good of our students!