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Report highlights need for more connected support for foundation learners

author:Ako Aotearoa

Report highlights need for more connected support for foundation learners

Lifting Our Game: Achieving greater success for learners in foundational tertiary education calls for government agencies and tertiary providers to work more closely together to lift the success rates for foundational learners.

The report, released on July 5, focuses on those studying at the lowest levels of tertiary education (Levels 1 to 3 and Level 4 bridging programmes). In 2010, this group represented almost one-third of all tertiary learners.

The Minister for Education, Hon Steven Joyce endorsed the report last week, describing it as an 'excellent resource' that he expected both government agencies and tertiary providers to take advantage of. The report was prepared by an independent Working Group hosted by Ako Aotearoa ? The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, and chaired by Dr Peter Coolbear, Director of Ako Aotearoa. The Working Group found that while there are examples of excellent practice in our education system at these lower levels, those practices need to be shared more widely for the benefit of all learners.

Speaking before this afternoon?s official launch, Dr Coolbear welcomed the Minister?s support and stressed that the report provides a 'starting point' for government agencies and tertiary sector providers to work in a more connected way to address the current issues identified in the report that provide barriers for many learners in moving to higher levels of tertiary education or to better employment.

The 4 current issues include:

  • low completion rates
  • low progression to higher study
  • lower than expected social and economic benefits, and
  • a lack of detailed information about education at these levels.

To address these, Lifting Our Game recommends actions for both education organisations and government agencies across 4 areas.

'Firstly,' said Dr Coolbear, 'we need to make sure that learners in these programmes receive good, appropriate support and guidance from the organisation ? including during the enrolment process. Support should also be integrated into programmes rather than something extra that learners have to access.'

'Secondly, education programmes need to be as clear as possible about their intended purpose, and able to be adapted to the specific needs of a learner. This should involve greater use of personalised "learning plans" to help students relate their current course to what they want to get out of their study,' he said.

The third area for action involves better collection and use of data by everyone. Education organisations, for example, should make sure they actively monitor student progress so that they can provide support as soon as possible. Government agencies, on the other hand, need to develop a better and deeper understanding of these programmes and the learners who take part in them.

Dr Coolbear adds, 'Our data collection strategies about outcomes from these programmes are surprisingly weak at present; in particular we have very poor information on longer term employment outcomes or success at the next level of study. In the end these are the measures by which the value of these programmes must be judged.'

The final part of the report focuses on the need for a more ?joined-up? education system with better links between education organisations, government agencies, industry, communities and learners themselves.

'This report ? and the papers and discussion forums that supported its development ? does not represent the final word in achieving success for learners in foundation education, but is instead a starting point for improving our performance,' said Dr Coolbear.

'The international experts who took part in this work believe that we already have many of the features needed for a high quality system that works for learners. The challenge is realising this potential across the board,' he added. 2012