Monday, September 26, 2016

Youth Guarantees Scheme - NZ outcomes

A flurry of activity within the NZ Voc Ed Blogger community after a local media article reporting on the outcomes of the Youth Guarantee programme in NZ, published in August.

Details are summarised in powerpoint by David Earle and Tertiary Education Commission - TEC - summary sheet.

Youth Gaurantees is set up to provide free tertiary education to students 16 - 19 who are in danger of becoming NEETs (not in employment, education or training). As such, the funding has mainly been targeted at students who have dis-engaged from the formal school system. Programmes tend to revolve around providing learning to ensure literacy and numeracy foundations are established, often within situated learning environments - i.e. pre-trade / vocational pathway programmes.

The media snippet on TV1 news, sparking the blogging, was confused Youth Guarantees with apprenticeship :( leading to a mishmash of outcomes being reported which did not make much sense.

Stuart Middleton's latest blog covers some of the misconceptions and challenges related to helping young people find their feet in an educational systems still very much premised on preparing school leavers to move into further academic study.

This morning, more fuel added to the debate with an analysis of the types of NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) Level 2 subjects completed by students' ethnicities. The summary makes for important reading. Basically, academic subjects have low numbers of Maori and Pacifika students and when these students do undertake study in physics, chemistry etc. they are less likely to achieve. Completion of the 'vocational' subjects - hospitality etc. tends to be higher in the lower decile schools and with higher proportions of Maori and Pacifika students.

Quote from article:
Dr Aaron Wilson, the co-author of a University of Auckland paper about similar trends, said the fault was partially with the qualification design.
"NCEA's greatest strength and greatest weakness is it's flexibility," he said. "It can be used to recognise strengths and open doors, or pigeonhole kids and limit their pathways."
So, the conundrum is, how can the educational system work for all students, regardless of ethnicity and social economic status? Unfortunately, society still measures ones worth through 'intellectual' muscle. Never mind that 'vocational learning' can be just as complex. My example is coffee making. For the average person, making coffee using a domestic espresso machine can be fraught with variables. To get every cup of coffee the same, each and every time the machine is used, takes quite a bit of practice. One needs to learn how to 'read' the machine and match the machines function to the type of coffee being used. Frothing milk to the right consistency and temperature each and every time is another challenge! Yet, a learner who completes competency in coffee making is seen as 'less worthy' than someone who completes level 2 physics. 
Therefore, back to square one :( Vocational education's credibility and respect, as Stephen Billett argues, is really the prime objective. Until society as a whole, commits to respecting the parity of skill and knowledge, we will still be reading articles as produced over the last two weeks. NZ has set the framework with NCEA and the qualifications framework - to provide equivalency to all learning. However, there is still lots of work to bring the general populace to understanding the need to respect all forms of learning and contributions.

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