QTI Member Articles

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NZCC - Preventing Our Kids from Falling Through the Tertiary Gap

Dr. Paul Pickering, Development Director for New Zealand Career College, shares his views on the college’s success with struggling secondary high school students and second chance learners.

In recent decades we’ve begun to understand that not all kids are the same when it comes to education – that they learn at their own pace and cope differently when presented with material comprising varying levels of complexity. Traditionally, this was attributed to some children being “bright” and others being “not so bright”.

We’ve since recognised the importance of context, culture, and variety in determining education outcomes. This recognition has lead to dramatic and ongoing improvements in the sector with the aim of ensuring our children get the best preparation for adulthood and their career. Sadly, changes large or small take a generation to be felt.

That much of the attention has been at primary and secondary levels is understandable, given that the propensity to absorb and learn is set at a very young age. It seems, though, that transitioning between the two is still resulting in a widening of the gap between achievers and non-achievers in years 9-13.

Furthermore, an unacceptably large portion of this demographic falls through that gap when they reach tertiary age. They have not managed to gain the necessary secondary credits to qualify for UE or enter into a desired vocational pathway, or worse, have scored just enough to make it into university but fail to complete the degree course.

For example, some prominent tertiary sector educators are lamenting the high failure rates being achieved amongst Pacific students, citing university graduation rates as low as 25 per cent. Whilst there is a political determination to attain a vast improvement in this statistic, perhaps part of the answer may be found in the style of learning this group (and others) are exposed to prior to engaging with a university programme.

For nearly ten years New Zealand Career College (NZCC), a Category 1 Private Training Establishment, has specifically engaged its market of struggling secondary high school students and second chance learners with a highly effective cohort model, whereby students receive holistic care addressing all elements influential to their capacity to learn. Critical to this approach is keeping the group and one tutor together throughout the duration of the programme, allowing strong trust-based relationships to form.

Pioneered by Sir Mason Durie, this “Whare Tapa Rima” (or the Pasifika equivalent “Fale”) model has resulted in course completion rates at NZCC well in excess of 80 per cent. Offering vocational and university foundational courses in Health, Early Childhood Education, Automotive Trades, and Business to nearly 1000 students per year, NZCC scored near the top of all providers in pathwaying its graduates in 2011-2012.

Perhaps in this day and age of delivering separate course components, the most effective means of preventing our youth from falling headlong into the gaps, is to simply bring those individual parts together and present the whole in an holistic nurturing environment.

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