Improving Participation, Retention and Progression of Māori Tertiary Learners in the Whanganui Region
This project investigated how two Private Training Establishments could improve the participation, retention and progression of Māori Tertiary Learners in the Whanganui Region.
- Gail Harrison, Whanganui Learning Centre Trust
- George Marshall, Tupoho Whanau Trust
- Aroha Beckham, Tupoho Whanau Trust
Participation, retention and progression of Māori learners in tertiary education are key concerns nationally. The need to address this issue is reflected in Whanganui training statistics where figures show that learning outcomes for Māori locally have declined over the past five years, and remain below those of non-Māori. (Iwi Tertiary Profile for Whanganui UCOL, 2008).
The project aimed to investigate how two Private Training Establishments could work together to:
- Develop co-joint, and/ or complimentary programming to enhance the participation of learners, particularly Māori, and more specifically, Tangata Whenua of the Whanganui region.
- Share their knowledge and experience to enhance foundation education and recognize broader concepts of literacy as described and discussed in the Whanganui Iwi Education Plan 2005.
The project partners agreed to examine, analyse and document the following:
- The outcomes and recommendations of prior research; and, in doing so, to review key issues and their relevance to current praxis, and to consider gaps in information and knowledge, and the mechanisms for sourcing these.
- To signpost ways in which two providers, one Tauiwi-led and one Māori-led, could work together to benefit Māori learners; and to signal the areas of change required to improve outcomes for both organizations under a collaborative model.
- To work within target communities and report on the outcomes of (at least) one pilot project.
During the project period the partners achieved five key results. Working together, they:
- commissioned a report in which Dr Penny Robinson reviewed the key issues determined in prior research and their relevance to current praxis. The report identified gaps in information and provided recommendations for research and action.
- shared knowledge and experience which enhanced foundation education in their communities.
- examined development priorities.
- developed and initiated co-joint and complementary programming.
- demonstrated that collaborative action could lead to improved outcomes for Māori and non-Māori.
- identified and planned future initiatives and programming to continue beyond the period of the pilot project.
Findings and outcomes
The project partners determined that:
- they adhered to a common kuapapa
- they could develop a relationship based on partnership principles.
- their skills were distinct with complementary strengths that would enable the development of collaborative and complimentary programming.
- while working together for learner benefit they could maintain the necessary autonomy and confidentiality required.
- there were benefits in engaging in forward planning and implementing joint programming. Examples included engaging in joint professional development; sharing tutors to provide professional development and training adult literacy tutors; sharing resources and developing other resources to meet the specific needs of foundation learners.
- they developed the knowledge to advance new projects and new ways of working with learners.
- determined that on-going evaluation of programming initiatives would be beneficial in determining their success, or shortcomings.
Clarity around their experiences and needs was provided in the commissioned report , conducted by Dr Penny Robinson, Whanganui, titled “Where are the Gaps, 2009”, with its specific focus on Maori Adult Foundation Learning, nationally and in the Whanganui region specifically.
An added strength was their common interest in tracking learners to determine the enablers and disablers for foundation learners in advancing their vocational goals.
Conclusions and recommendations
- The project benefited both parties and the cohorts of learners engaged in the process in the organizations. These benefits will most likely continue to accrue over the next 12 months.
- Time spent in initial consultation and development is critical. Support at both a managerial and governance level was vital to the success of the project.
- A common value base was determined which, in the view of the project partners, was a critical element of success.
- The relationship between the organisations respected partnership principles, and the need for autonomy and confidentiality around emerging business opportunities for each PTE.
- Collaborative action was not limited to the two PTEs. Others were pivotal in the process of enabling and improving student participation, retention and progression; most notably, the local Iwi Educational Authority (Te Puna Matauranga o Whanganui).
- Improvement in learner participation, retention and progression were noted, but were small due to the specific focus and limited nature of the project. Impacts on learners and learning progress were examined but, a formal evaluation was not conducted. An ideal follow-up would be to develop a formal evaluation framework to capture qualitative and quantative outcomes for all involved. Formal evaluation would require outside support by way of an external reviewer, and funding and/ or resources to support the process.
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