Increasing educational attainment for TES priority learners
During 2011 and 2012, Ako Aotearoa supported the work of the Priority Learners Educational Attainment Working Group (EAWG). This was an independent group that explored how we can better serve the needs of Priority Learners – those who are studying at the lowest levels of our education system.
The EAWG launched its final report on 5 July 2012: Lifting Our Game: Achieving greater success for learners in foundational tertiary education. The report discusses how our education system can better serve the needs of these learners and provides a set of recommendations for both tertiary providers and government agencies.
These fit into 4 broad themes:
- better, individualised advice and support for learners
- 'real', purposeful and personalised programmes
- improved data collection and use
- genuine transparency and accountability with a 'joined-up' system.
Lifting our game is not intended to provide the last word in achieving success for priority learners, but is instead a starting point for ensuring that our education system meets the needs of those who are studying at these foundational levels. The core message from this work is that we already have the tools and structures available to create success, and there are providers achieving excellent outcomes for these learners. Our key challenge is to share existing good practice across the sector.
You can download this publication as a pdf or purchase the print version from the Ako Aotearoa shop.
Read the press release issued for the launch on 5 July 2012.
Use the links below to navigate to further information about this project:
- The Educational Attainment Working Group (EAWG)
- Who are priority learners?
- Background and discussion papers
- Expert forums
While Ako Aotearoa led this project, the decisions and recommendations to come out of it were developed by an independent Educational Attainment Working Group (EAWG). The members are:
- Peter Coolbear (Ako Aotearoa, Chair)
- Christine Clark (Corporate Academy Group)
- Peter Conway (New Zealand Council of Trade Unions)
- Karen Davis (Victoria University of Wellington)
- Stuart Middleton (Manukau Institute of Technology)
- Carrie Murdoch (Business NZ)
- Judy Solomon (The Solomon Group)
- Pauline Winter (Auckland University of Technology).
For our purposes ‘priority learners’ are those engaged in learning fundamental skills. These are students taking part in programmes designed to provide the basic, essential skills required for initial entry into the workforce, the development of further lifeskills, and/or progression into further study. They primarily consist of learners at levels 1-3 of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF).
We are using the term 'priority learners' for this group because of their importance in achieving the goals of the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) 2010-2015. As well as generally supporting high-quality research and improving system performance, the TES prioritises addressing the needs of several priority learner groups (Minster for Tertiary Education, 2010):
- more young people (aged under 25) achieving qualifications at levels 4 and above, particularly degrees
- more Māori students enjoying success at higher levels
- more Pasifika students enjoying success at higher levels
- more young people moving successfully from school into tertiary education
- improve[d] literacy, language, and numeracy and skills outcomes from levels 1-3 study.
The TES therefore directly emphasises the need to improve outcomes from levels 1-3 study. In addition, however, ensuring the existence of high-quality foundational education is key to addressing the needs of most other priority groups. To ensure that more Māori and Pasifika students achieve at higher levels we need to ensure that the foundational programmes in which many learners participate, and associated institutional arrangements, support effective pathways to higher levels of study. We need to do the same for young people who are deciding whether or not to make the transition from school to tertiary study, and ensure that study at levels 1-3 is a genuinely valuable option for those not yet ready to study at higher levels.
Our work focused on learners who are studying with education providers. While the workplace-based training that Industry Training Organisations provide is a significant part of level 1-3 provision, it involves quite different drivers and constraints from that of other tertiary organisations. If you are interested in issues affecting learners in industry training, please contact the Industry Training Federation.
The EAWG's conclusions are based on consideration of official data, pre-existing research, and input from international experts and associated forums.
The following publications on the Ministry of Education's Education Counts website provide some background on these learners:
- Benefits of Tertiary Certificates and Diplomas – exploring economic and social outcomes (Earle 2010)
- Youth Training – Statistical Profile 1999 to 2008 (Mahoney 2010)
- Training Opportunities: Exploring what happens two months later (Mahoney 2010)
- Training Opportunities: Statistical Profile 1999 to 2007 (Mahoney 2009)
The following two data reports were prepared for the EAWG by Ako Aotearoa staff, with support from the Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission. They provide an overview of official statistics relating to priority learners and how well our system is meeting their needs.
- Profiling ‘Priority’ Learners – Who are they, where are they, and what are they doing? (791 KB PDF)
- Profiling ‘Priority’ Learners – Pathways, what’s working well, and where are there issues? (710 KB PDF)
During the course of its work, the EAWG also identified several issues of key relevance to priority learners. To assist in its thinking about these issues and promote discussion, it commissioned discussion papers on these areas.
- Learners in targeted training programmes (Walbran 2010) (207 KB PDF)
- Transitions: A discussion paper (Middleton, 2010) (300 KB PDF)
- Priority learners in part-time study: A discussion paper (Turner, 2010) (1.44 MB PDF)
As part of this work, in June and July 2010, Ako Aotearoa hosted a series of discussion events with international experts on issues relevant to priority learners.
- Dr Bruce Vandal, Education Commission of the States (US)
- Professor Ewart Keep, Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (UK)
- Professor David Conley, Educational Performance Information Centre (US)
Each expert spoke at a main public forum, and a smaller number of focused regional meetings. Material from these events, along with further information on each expert, can be found by following the link below.
If you have any questions about this work, please contact Nicholas Huntington at Ako Aotearoa.
This work is published under the Creative Commons 3.0 New Zealand Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Licence (BY-NC-SA). Under this licence you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work as well as to remix, tweak, and build upon this work noncommercially, as long as you credit the author/s and license your new creations under the identical terms.