Fitting education to learners will improve Māori student outcomes

By Stefan Dimitrof

The 'one-size-fits-all' education system, is failing a large group of students, with tens of thousands of Māori, Pacific and disabled students continuing to slip through the cracks.

A new report called Shifting the Dial focuses on 66,000 "under-served learners" in Aotearoa, and recommends embracing tikanga, and applying a cultural lens to learning approaches to improve education outcomes for young people.

Up Education group chief executive Mark Rushworth says there are too many underserved learners “who are secondary school learners who left school without a qualification or didn’t progress onto tertiary education”.

“Underserved learners do have a large economic and social impact on New Zealand. What we are finding is Māori, Pacific people and disabled people are over-represented in this group”.

Rushworth and his team reviewed the data and talked with academics, students, the community and iwi. They found the most common and predominant issue was one size doesn’t fit all.

Rushworth says the underserved learners end up being unemployed or in low-skill work and are never able to upskill past those roles.

Hoani Waititi programme cited

“If we could get those underserved learners into a level four to level six qualification, then there are 66,000 who would lift up and have better outcomes at that national level.

“Two components that are beneficial are economic, which equates to an extra $11 billion over 30 years, and secondly increases self-esteem and their health, which leads to a longer life expectancy."

Rushworth says they have partnered with local iwi to develop educational programmes with local marae using tikanga. “Hoani Waititi is an example of that where we have a trade school in partnership with it and we have students there who are having great educational outcomes.”

Other aspects of education that need to be taught to underserved learners are soft skills and life skills.

 “Academic qualifications are really important but they also need to be work-ready.”

Rushworth wants educational work plans tailored to each of the learners. “Each person has different barriers to education. One area that we focus on is increasing their literacy and numeracy and helping them achieve up to that level four.”

Rushworth said that for people to have better learning outcomes, “learners need to see themselves reflected in their tutors and teachers.

"They also need to create a scene of belonging and appositive learning environment that learners want to come into each day.”