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Moving sideways in order to go forward

Sometimes policy, both formal and informal, attempts to act at something of a distance from the world in which it has an impact.

There currently is a “policy” that students enrolling in a Youth Guarantee place in a tertiary institution should be in a programme that is not at the same level as the qualification they already have. In theory that sounds right and proper.

Youth guarantee places are available to students between the ages of 16 years and 19 years. It continues the entitlement that New Zealand students have to a “free education” until the age of 19 years addressing the anomaly that schools for a very long time had the monopoly on provision in the 16 – 19 year space with regard to free education. The YG places provision goes a little further and provides a travel allowance. This pathway is not a universal one – it is capped and additional conditions apply.

One such condition is the restriction placed on a student repeating a Level 1 or Level 2 course if they already have NCEA Level 1 or Level 2 regardless of the subjects that might involve.. And herein lies a problem.

Orwell declared that “All pigs are created equal but some are more equal than others!.” We might suggest that “All NCEA Level 2 achievements are useful but some are more useful than others.”

Quite often the student has a NCEA Level 2 for which they have worked hard but which is inadequate preparation for the pathway they wish to pursue when they pick up the opportunity to continue their education in a Youth Guarantee place.

It is not yet the case that the Vocational Pathways development has led to a situation in which the pathways become the basis for student decision making with regard to courses in schools nor have they yet become a set of organising principles for curriculum. Add to that the stubborn difficulty that seems to continue in providing adequate career counselling and advice, and the students are left with little choice.

In order to move forward some students must first move sideways. They need to make a horizontal adjustment in their knowledge and skills if they are to proceed smoothly along the pathway of their choice. This seems to be more of an issue at Level 2 rather than at other levels.

And yet politicians continue to ask questions in the House putting a complexion on this issue which suggests it is a sinful act on someone’s part. Far from it, it is typically and simply, evidence of good decisions being made about what constitutes a robust pathway for a student. In time both sides of the secondary / tertiary divide will get better at synchronising programmes and students will have access to information and opportunity to spot the pathways earlier.

Making the horizontal adjustment seems a much better option than failure.


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