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Tag: multiple pathways

Renewed energy for the journey

The MIT Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways in partnership with Ako Aotearoa has just finished its fourth annual National Symposium in Wellington. Over 200 educators gathered to continue their journey along Te Ara Whakamana, considering possible pathways, transitions and bridges from secondary education into tertiary education.

Flashback to Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2011 when the first gathering was held at MIT and 120 people got together to ask tentative questions related to the “new” policy setting of the “Youth Guarantee”, the approach to the new proposals for a more orderly view of NCEA credit that the Industry Training Federation had developed and called “Vocational Pathways”. The first secondary / tertiary programme in New Zealand, the MIT Tertiary High School, was up and running into its second year, and various academy programmes had started up.

MIT has established the Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways to be a centre of excellence for discussion, development and advocacy of the ideas that would allow students to find new and different ways of moving seamlessly through secondary and on into tertiary education and training.

In particular, the initiatives were aimed at addressing the dysfunctional approaches to senior secondary schooling that saw too many students fail to achieve educational outcomes of which we could be proud and, to not put too fine a point on it, which were acceptable to a high-performing economy. And this in addition to the numbers of students that were dropping out of school prior to approaching the threshold for secondary education.

So the 2014 Symposium was a very different affair. Policy is in place, there was very little discussion and grizzling (as there had been back in 2011) about funding other than its lack of flexibility and reports were made on a wide range of successful new ways of working that were bringing success to some of those who had previously failed or perhaps more correctly, been failed.

An inspirational session came at the end of the second day when a team from Christchurch reported on developments that have arisen from the disruption and damage of the earthquakes. Working differently had become not only possible but also necessary – the old approaches would no longer be adequate nor would they have the urgency that was now needed. Key messages I took out of the session were: 

  •          It is possible to do something about what seem to be intractable problems. They took the dirty statistic of NEETs in Canterbury and by elimination reduced the numbers to produce a list of names. “From numbers to names to action” has been a call for action by Minister Hekia Parata for some time. The Key benefit of such an approach is that it gets the scale of an issue out into the light and able to be tackled.
  •          They showed that you manage transitions by doing something about them. Organizing the employment sector (manufacturing in this case) was a first step and then connecting that sector to those coming out of training programmes plugged the gaps.
  •          There is a high level of connected activity, one party addresses the issue of another party by adjusting the way they work. It is collaboration in practice.
  •          An idea that intrigued was the development of a Destinations passport that gave students a mechanism for systematically noting the ways in which they had developed the so-called soft skills that employers sought. No need to wait for schools to act, allow the students to use their real lives!
  •          There is a strong focus on evidence-based activity.

Trevor McIntyre leads much of this work and he issued a challenge to those present. What is your earthquake? Certainly there are many things that need a good shake up.

Steve Jobs always claimed that “the journey is the reward.” There is a group of educators in New Zealand that grows larger steadily that is on a journey to a place where students have access to equitable outcomes. Dr. Peter Coolbear, director of Ako Aotearoa, invited the symposium to consider the impact of the changes that were being discussed. In the four years since the symposium started, 14,000 students have engaged in a pathway that is different from a conventional track through the conventional school. 

I noted, in bringing the deliberations to a close, that a wide-spread adoption of a “multiple pathways” approach (“linked learning” it is being called in the US) could well be the means by which we address the issues of the bipolar education system and see equity matching achievement in our school system’s performance. 

Momentum is building.



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Secondary-Tertiary Pathways: Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration


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!



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Pathways-ED: Charter Schools – "A View from the States"

written by Ben Riley, Director of Policy and Advocacy, New Schools Venture Fund

I’m tremendously excited that Stuart asked me to offer my “View from the States” on New Zealand education policy. For reasons I’ll explain in a future post, I am keenly interested in New Zealand’s education system and I’m eager to learn more through this partnership. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Recently, Stuart blogged about pending legislation to create charter schools (or as you are calling them, “Partnership Schools Kura Houora”). Given that the organization I work for, NewSchools Venture  Fund, has funded charter schools for more than a decade, I thought it might be helpful to share my perspective on US charter policy in the hopes of informing New Zealand’s nascent interest. I’ll begin with three general comments and then offer a few specific observations on your pending legislation.

First, pay careful attention to authorizing and oversight of charter schools. The basic theory behind charter schools is that you offer greater flexibility in return for higher accountability. That accountability, however, turns out to be trickier to establish than many expected when charter laws were first introduced. It turns out that parents are not always “well informed consumers” when it comes to selecting schools for their children; as a result, we see low-performing charter schools continue to operate in the US longer than a pure, market-driven choice model would suggest. Similarly, we’ve also learned that it’s just as difficult to close low-performing charter schools as it is to close their non-charter counterparts. Schools serve as cornerstones within our communities, thus to close one – charter or otherwise — almost inevitably results in controversy and political strife. The key is to ensure the charter authorizers are independent and empowered to make tough decisions — the National Association of Charter School Authorizers offers good guidance on this subject.

Second, make sure charter schools have equitable access to the resources they need – school facilities in particular. In the US, charter schools are supposed to have equal access to public resources as those provided to traditional schools. While that aspiration remains unevenly realized throughout the states with respect to funding, an equal if not bigger challenge is ensuring that charter operators have access to public facilities. Obviously, it’s very hard to provide quality instruction if you’re struggling to find physical space to teach children.  

Third, create clear paths for innovation and success within charter schools to translate into change within the entire education system. Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the “charter movement” is that new innovations and successful school models within the charter sector have, with rare exception, remain isolated from the traditional school system. Despite a growing body of evidence demonstrating that good charter schools can provide a high-quality education to our most challenged students, the practices common to these schools are considered “unique to charters” and thus irrelevant. And this prejudice flows in both directions, by the way: There are many interesting innovations happening in the traditional sector that charter operators never discover.

To address this, the Gates Foundation is investing US$25 million in seven “City Compacts” to promote local collaboration between charter schools and traditional schools, in the hopes that this will lead to the spread of good instructional practice. This model is one New Zealand should consider from the outset to ensure the charter sector remains connected to the larger education system.

With those general observations as background, I have read through New Zealand’s Cabinet Paper and Regulatory Impact Statement on developing a charter school model. On the whole, the vision accords with what we’ve learned in the US and strikes the right balance between autonomy and accountability. Moreover, as I am only beginning to understand how your system works, I hesitate to offer any suggestions without knowing the local context. That said, I flag two items for further consideration.

To begin, I would caution against permitting for-profit operators (or “sponsors”) to run charter schools. The reality is that any for-profit business must be run as exactly that, a business, with a fiduciary obligation to maximize profits. One problem with that, however, is that if a charter school runs out of resources in the middle of the school year, it’s supposed to shut down – with the brunt of real harm falling upon displaced students and irate parents. Just as importantly, allowing for-profit operators to operate charter schools inflames the suspicion of some that the charter movement is a cover for “big business” looking to profit and privatize public education. Perhaps this tension is not as vibrant in New Zealand as it is here but at least in the US, many people still don’t understand what charter schools really are or what purposes they serve.

Similarly, the proposed legislation allows faith-based organizations to serve as school sponsors/operators. In the US, mixing public funds with private religious instruction results in spectacular political fireworks. We are about to revive this highly contentious debate over what we call “vouchers,” which provide direct payments to parents that they can use to send their children to schools of their choice, including private religious schools. New Zealand policymakers might ask themselves – are they prepared to provide public funding to a school devoted to, say, promoting Creationist theories on the origin of humankind? In my opinion, the whole thing is a massive distraction that takes away focus on instructional quality. Better to scrap this and spend the bulk of political capital on developing clear guidelines on what’s expected of charter operators, and holding firm on accountability to ensure quality.

In closing, I am excited to see New Zealand pursue charter schooling and direct resources to provide high-quality school options to parents and students living in challenged communities. By addressing some of these issues at the outset, I believe New Zealand will be better positioned to achieve the student outcomes you desire.

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Talk-ED: Pathways through the Pacific

Stuart Middleton
16 July 2012


Like many others I too have had a bit of a holiday. Well, more of a change of routine.

First I was pleased to host Gary Hoachlander, CE of ConnectEd in San Francisco. He is developing approaches to “linked learning” in which themes are driving programmes. It is similar to the our Vocational Pathways but more sophisticated in that the focus is clearly on professional and industrial sectors with significant sector-related content and work experience. But like our Vocational Pathways such pathways remain flexible. The New Zealanders who heard Gary speak were impressed with this glimpse of secondary education in the future, well now really.

The notion of “multiple pathways” is really catching on. As a concept it is rather simple. That is because the object of education is relatively simple – to take a young person from a state of being someone who does not know and cannot do the many things valued by society to a state of high competence in knowledge (of literature, values, philosophy, science, mathematics, and so on) and skills (of employment, citizenship, parenthood, and personal growth).

Having said that the simplistic view that there is only one way in which this can be achieved is increasingly challenged. The notion that all young people will thrive on a similar diet of education for fifteen or even twenty years defies the evidence that suggests that as education has become increasingly homogenous in the past thirty or so years it has become increasingly obvious that this one-way approach suits only some.

Systems all around the world are worried about the levels of drop out.  A Forum in Wellington two weeks ago on Multiple Pathways was told that 50% of 9th graders (our year ten) in major US cities drop out. Our own New Zealand evidence suggests that perhaps between the ages of 15 and 24 as much as up to 30% of people are dropping out of education and training leaving them without a level of skill and knowledge that will see them secure in their futures.

I was up in the Pacific during the week and each island nation I visited wanted to know more about Multiple Pathways. Across a wide range of settings, secondary schooling is not sustaining the interest and engagement of students. To be fair to secondary schools, this is not a recent phenomenon because it never has, or to put it more accurately , it has never been expected to. Until relatively recently (the mid to late 1970s, students had access to “multiple pathways” – opportunities both inside and outside of the school.

Offering technical and commercial courses in essence did what vocational pathways will seek to do but were a little more aggressive in the connection to employment. Leaving school at age 15 early and officially, to enter employment and generally with it opportunity for work-based training as well as education through night classes and technical institutes.

Technical and commercial and agricultural subjects were available in some schools, students left at age fifteen to continue in apprenticeships and other trade training options such as night school, cadetships, workplace learning and so on.

The Pacific nations are now facing the issues we face – how can they get students to stay in school, to achieve useful qualification to acceptable levels and then make a useful contribution to their island nation.

And the same principles apply there as they do here in New Zealand.

Some students simply need an earlier exposure to trades and applied education in order to both maintain momentum and to develop a purposeful attitude towards learning. Even in those small economies the links between schooling and what is possible after schooling finishes is critical. Some will proceed to further education and training, some will enter employment and others will return to the informal economy. The scale is different but the challengers of all this are as great.

But one thing is clear. Education systems that developed the comprehensive academic high school model as the staple diet of education and training are now faced with change. This includes the big anglophone systems and those that have followed them or have been encouraged to do so.

We live therefore in interesting times but we are not on our own.


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EDTalkNZ: Special Blog


EDTalkNZ welcomes the Better Public Service Goals for education announced by the government yesterday.


The goal of 85% of students achieving NCEA Level 2 or its equivalent is an entirely reasonable goal even if the time for getting there by 2016, is a very tight and demanding one.


To reach this goal we will have to bring success to an additional 10,000 students who currently either do not reach this goal or who disengage from education too early. The big task is that over 50% of those 10,000 students will be Maori and Pasifika if reaching the goal is to be done in an equitable manner.


The current level of disengagement from education by students under the age of 16 years suggests that reaching the goal will require:


  •   a greater emphasis on multiple pathways allowing students to choose different pathways with different emphases than is typically available now;
  •   earlier opportunity for students to find success through applied vocational education;
  •   an increased willingness for schools and tertiary providers to work more closely together to provide mixed qualification pathways in which the NCEA Level 2 goal is reached in combination with industry recognised qualifications;
  •   increasing the capacity of Youth Guarantee Programmes including trades academies, secondary / tertiary interface programmes and increased numbers of Youth Guarantee Free Fees places which allow students who wish to build on their progress in school through being able to enter a vocational qualification programme without having to stay in school for all of the three years of NCEA.

But above all, we can reach this goal if we put our minds to it and this will require two big efforts. We will have to work together across traditional boundaries with a focus on the student rather than the sector and the institution. We will have to reflect the diversity of students by admitting to a variety of approaches that will allow them to meet the goal.

So it’s up to us rather than them.



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Talk-ED: A “snapshot” view of a secondary / postsecondary interface programme in America


Guest blogger, Colleen Young, Administrator, Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways, joins us today.


The “one-size-fits-all” education system is tearing our secondary student body apart.  Granted, for some students the academic route is working, but for an increasing number of students in the English speaking countries, senior school students are becoming bored with the curriculum on offer, experiencing little educational success and they are very likely to fail within the current system. Educational policy-makers are constantly searching for answers. 

Recently I visited two Early College High Schools in the United States. This is a new form of schooling founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at improving student success for minority students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.  It was refreshing to see re-engaged students who knew their future career pathways and how they were going to get there. In one of the schools, two Grade 10 (Year 11) students took me on tour.  They were so proud of their school.  They loved their integrated secondary/postsecondary programme and when they introduced me to their teachers; it was obvious that they had formed quality relationships with them.  So, what did these schools have in common and why were both schools achieving such excellent educational outcomes for the students?

For a start, like the Tertiary High School, based at Manukau Institute of Technology, for Year 11-Year 13 students, both schools are situated on campus.  There are no tuition or book costs for up to five years. Studying on site at the College eases the students into the new postsecondary environment and makes for a smooth transition.

In addition, the funding of the institutions differed from a traditional school. Both schools were initially, (and one of them still is) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which gave the schools complete autonomy and removed them from the state system.  Fierce marketing done by each of the schools allowed prospective students and their families to understand the Early College High School concept. The target audience is similar to the Tertiary High School where students may apply who come from lower socioeconomic, low income families, underrepresented groups and who are possibly first generations, college going students. 

Demand for places always exceeded supply.  Students who were lucky enough to gain a place in one of these schools are able to learn in a small school between 100 and 200 students.  As a result these students are able to receive more one-on-one academic and social support. Teachers work individually with students to remove any barriers they may be facing that may be inhibiting their educational success. Knowing some students miss out on a place may mean the students valued their place more than the place they had in their previous school.  This appeared to be the case as from what I saw wandering around the classrooms the students appeared to be working hard and enjoying their learning experience.  Staff that I spoke to said they had very few behavioural problems.

To conclude, there appear to be four differences in these two schools in comparison to the traditional school model.   These are:  the way a school is funded in terms of staffing and resources, the autonomy for decision making, the creation of a collaborative and flexible integrated programme between the two institutions which is relevant, interesting, challenging and rigorous for the students; and a small school which in turn allows for smaller class sizes therefore providing more time for individual teacher and student interaction.

The question remains:  Can our senior secondary schools change the way the programmes are developed and delivered to the senior students which in turn would mean increasing the collaboration between secondary and tertiary institutions?  In addition, could the policies be adapted so that funding can follow the student?  If so, then more students at risk of failing in our traditional school system could be given access to a variety of career options and opportunities in order to create a brighter and happier future for them.

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EDTalkNZ: What constitutes student success?

Colleen Young, Administrator of the Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways is today’s guest writer.

Years ago, when attending teacher professional development sessions, the topic of student outcomes was rarely discussed. During the late 1970s and through to the mid 1980s, the majority of students either progressed to tertiary educational institutions, went straight into an apprenticeship, or found low-skilled work. 

These days, while New Zealand continues to educate our youth with the “one-size-fits-all” education system, and while there continues to be an increasing number of students remaining in our senior secondary school with no intention of progressing to university, more questions need to be asked around the notion of student success.  For example, we know that every student requires a certain standard of numeracy and literacy to be able to work in the current and future workplace.  We know that critical thinking and problem solving skills are paramount learning tools which assist students in becoming successful in their future. We know that the creation of multiple learning pathways makes sense for a large group of students who will not attend our universities – so what are we doing to encourage this group of students to improve their success?  Does student success have to be all about passing the three sciences, English and maths?

I would argue that it doesn’t.  Student success can be, and should be, determined by student interests and what is best for the student, so they can progress to each next step until they reach a successful career outcome suited to them.  Once a student has an opportunity to “try before he/she buys” student success ought to follow. In other words, when a student finds a course that they can be passionate about, usually they are more engaged in the learning process and success follows. But how does one know what they want to do if they have no idea what that task feels like to do, how long it takes and where the task leads to further down the track? 

The School of Secondary Tertiary Studies (Tertiary High School) is one such form of schooling which allows its students to try different courses at the Manukau Institute of Technology, while also studying for their senior schooling NCEA Levels 1, 2 or 3 at the same time.  Effectively that means that if a student doesn’t like fabrication after six weeks, they can try catering and hospitality or early childhood and so on.  Some of them may even be fortunate enough to like several courses and they end up having to make a choice! The point is that instead of students doing bits and pieces of tertiary courses while still at secondary school, it makes more sense to enable students to try different courses of interest to them whilst demonstrating the need for numeracy and literacy for any future career they may take. I should point out that some secondary schools are already actively doing this.  However, for students to become successful citizens, it is also important for schools to provide accurate and useful careers advice, student social support and extra academic support if required.  

It is commendable to see the Ministry of Education continuing to promote and implement the Youth Guarantee Scheme alongside Trades Academies and Service Academies in New Zealand. For youth searching for alternative educational pathways other than university, these new courses provide a range of opportunities for students at risk of disengaging and dropping out of school.  

Let’s continue to create rigorous and challenging pathways that re-engage our youth, challenge the “status quo” for senior secondary school students who do not wish to go to university and watch our student failure rates fall. Students want to succeed.  Therefore, it is up to us as politicians, educators and policy makers in New Zealand to listen to the students needs, make decisions to reallocate funding streams at the senior schooling level to provide greater student choice,  so all students now, and in the future will learn what it feels like to experience student success.

Colleen Young

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Talk-ED: The Rosy Glow of Shangri La or the Yellow Brick Road?

Stuart Middleton
4 April 2011

 I have just returned from the centennial celebration of my primary school, Frankton Primary School. I was invited to speak as a “past pupil” and that was a great honour as my Uncles had been foundation students, my Mother had started in 1915 and the four Middleton boys had been there throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

 I commented on the simplicity of the focus in earlier times. We went to school to learn to read and write and do our sums (and learn about the British Empire I had added) and we were blissfully unaware of educational failure is it existed in the school. This observation lead to many comments from others over lunch that I had captured something that rang a bell for them. As one former pupil said to me “”It might have been simpler then but we had so many more options about our schooling.”

 I thought about that as we drove home – there was an element of truth in what he had said. Despite an intention to provide young people with more options we had actually narrowed the possibilities through creating a one-pathway-for-all approach premised on the belief that a “highly educated” community required us to lift academic skills and keep students in school longer. What we know now is that it isn’t working and we are moving steadily towards historically high levels of educational failure partly explained by increasing access to education but this is distorted by the numbers of students who should be in education but who are not in employment, education or training.

 So the old-timer’s observation about “so many more opportunities back then” has an ironic touch to it when we consider the growing emphasis placed internationally on “multiple pathways”. Put simply this means a movement back towards “a multiyear comprehensive high school programme of integrated academic and technical study that is organised around a broad theme, interest area, or industry sector.” [1] This sees a focus on increasing the opportunities in Years 7 to 13 for career exploration and placing a huge emphasis on seamless education between career and technical education in high schools and instruction in post-secondary programmes. This requires a new and serious involvement of business and industry in relationships with educational delivery of career and technical education.

 A clear shift between what happened in the old days and the goal of today is the involvement of high schools in the development. Back then students simply left high school at age 15 and went into the opportunities that existed – workplace training both informal and formal, night classes and more recently polytechnic programmes. To this there were widespread opportunities to take up apprenticeships that were significantly work-based.

 Of course we now look down our educated noses at low-skilled and unskilled employment but for many young people this was always a first step into the world of post-school employment and was not always an ultimate destination.

 The irony is that career and technical pathways were removed from our schools largely to direct most students towards “academic” pathways where, it was thought, the knowledge wave would sweep all young people towards high-tech, “academic” futures. In the event it educationally drowned quite a number. Now there is growing evidence that career and technical education pathways can prepare students for post-secondary success in academic pathways at least as effectively.

 It could take universities quite some time to understand this as the old paradigm of “academic” on the one hand and “technical/vocational” on the other will prove to be hard to shift. Mutliple pathways require us to see that academic and vocational or academic and technical are not mutually exclusive terms.

 Some countries (Germany, Scandinavia for instance) provide a range of pathways that allow students to focus their learning on goals that are heading towards a future that is academic (usually a university course) or technical (trades etc) and have little difficulty in allowing students to move between pathways as aspirations change or aptitudes become more apparent. This is made easier by the continuation of a core set of studies in language, mathematics, civics, and digital skills Perhaps the issue in countries that are now in strife (the English-speaking five) is that they combined the dominant restrictive academic pathway with specialisation that was simply too early. And to some extent this was exacerbated by the level of literacy and mathematic skills that students brought with them into the high school.

 So there is much talk about “multiple pathways” and we are starting to focus in New Zealand on the provision of such a set of varied options for young people. The development of trades academies, service academies, programmes that combine school and workplace, or school and tertiary collaborative programmes, new developments such as tertiary high schools and suchlike are all first steps towards a new future for students.

And will it be worth it? It is early days but results from one multiple pathway programme that started last year suggest that it will. National NCEA 2010 pass rates were announced this week and showed that 75% of Year 11 students who sat NCEA, passed Level 1. Comparing these national results to the NCEA results for this multiple pathways programme is salutary. Students were selected for the programme on the basis that they, their caregivers and their school agreed that they were unlikely to get success were they to continue, possibly even disengaging from education completely.

In this multiple pathways programme, 70% of Year 11 students passed (compared with 75% nationally). But this multiple pathways programme achieved a Level 1 pass rate of 80% for Maori students (compared to 61% nationally) and a pass rate of 71% for Pasifika students (compared to 54%).

In addition to these results, the multiple pathways students were not lock-stepped into the equation that locks NCEA levels into school years. Of those gaining NCEA Level 1 in the multiple pathways programme, 66% also gained additional Level 2 credits (range 2-24) and 95% gained additional Level 3 credits (range 4-8).

In addition to these stunning successes, 25% of the students who gained NCEA Level 1 qualified as well to enter an industry-recognised diploma programme in their second year across a range of career and technical disciplines.

 This is what a multiple pathways approach is all about – different routes to student success.

1. Multiple Pathways to Student Success, California Department of Education, Sacramento, 2010

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