Commission seeks to close the success gap between Maori and the Pacific


The Higher Education Commission says hundreds of initiatives to improve the success rates of Maori and Pacific students in higher education are poorly targeted distractions that don’t work.

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

In a briefing to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, the commission said the gaps in Maori and Pacific student outcomes would persist unless universities and other institutions take a systems approach to equity that the commission said. had developed and tested.

“If the sector continues to do what it has been doing, there will be little or no change in Maori and Pacific tertiary achievements,” the briefing said.

“There have been hundreds of equity-focused interventions in the higher education system to support underserved learners, with mixed results. Pilot projects come and go, but the change needed at the system level to achieve parity of participation and achievement remains elusive. In many ways, these well-intentioned interventions have distracted attention from systems approaches. “

The briefing posted on the commission’s website said the biggest equity gap was in bachelor’s degrees, where less than half of Maori and Pacific learners graduated in six years, compared to more than 62 % of other learners.

He said the 17 percentage point gap had barely changed in the past six years.

The commission said it wanted schools to introduce a “learner success” system called Ōritetanga that it had tested with some schools.

He said the framework required system-wide changes to focus on the needs of their students at all levels.

The briefing said the commission should provide financial incentives to encourage adoption of the model, but also impose “consequences” for poor performance.

“This will be the first higher education program of its kind at the national level. There is an opportunity to lead the world in providing an education system that really works for all of our learners and to achieve system-wide equity in New Zealand, ”the document says.

He said the commission was already helping Te Pukenga, the national polytechnic and workplace training provider, adopt the framework across all of its 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology.

The document says the commission will work with universities to get them to adopt it as well.

University of Auckland scholar Sereana Naepi said TEC’s work was exciting, but it should name and shame all the institutions that have failed to improve.

“What concerns me is where will the transparency and accountability be? Said Dr Naepi.

“Let’s find out who’s doing well, share their practices, find out who’s not and hold them to account in a way that isn’t blaming them but saying ‘what can we do to make you do better otherwise we will let Maori, Pacific and other equity groups know that you are not serving them well so they can choose another institution, ”she said.

Te Kāhui Amokura is a group of New Zealand universities representing senior Maori leaders from the eight universities.

Its president, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai of the University of Waikato, said Ōritetanga was a huge improvement.

She said Waikato tested the program using data from students to understand what support they needed and when.

“It has made a difference in our ability to more specifically and efficiently monitor data and use the data to inform changes to our system,” she said.

Dr Tiakiwai said other changes, such as ensuring education is culturally inclusive for Maori students, are also needed.

“Ōritetanga allows us to grasp one aspect of it, but I think it is part of an ongoing program and a constant need to remain vigilant about our responsiveness as a sector to the needs of Maori students”, a- she declared.

Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said universities had agreed they needed to do more and would use the Ōritetanga approach.

“It’s fair to say that in the past goals were set, but no funding was put around them. Sector as a sector and taking a much more strategic approach to get better results for them. Maori and Pasifika students, ”he said.

The briefing said universities have a strong financial incentive to improve. A study recently found that they lose around $ 909 million a year due to students of all ethnicities failing to convert pre-enrollment to enrollment or drop out in their first year of study.


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