3. Māori learner transitions to tertiary education

3.2 Transitions from secondary school to tertiary education

Lack of adequate guidance as [students] navigated their way through the NCEA system, often ending with an unfocused mix of subjects and standards.

Madjar et al. (2010) explore the transition process from the starting point of secondary school, identifying that the nature and study level of school subjects selected has a significant impact on subsequent tertiary sector participation and pathways accessible to learners.

This focus is well grounded in the earlier literature about secondary-tertiary transitions, including the earlier literature synthesis undertaken by Leach and Zepke.3

Secondary school subject choice as either a key barrier or enabler

Decisions about secondary school subject choice are important as they have a key bearing on whether students are eligible to enter university, or whether they complete prerequisite subjects that will be needed to enable enrolment in specific programmes at tertiary level. Therefore, it is critical that Māori learners, and their parents and whānau have a good understanding of the qualifications framework and the importance of prerequisite requirements (Taurere, 2010).

It is critical that Māori learners, and their parents and whānau have a good understanding of the qualifications framework and the importance of prerequisite requirements. (Taurere, 2010)

Secondary school qualification data suggests that secondary school subject choice may well be a barrier for Māori who are less likely than non-Māori to attain National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 2 and university entrance.

Māori school leavers had the lowest rates of NCEA Level 2 attainment of all ethnic groups with around just half (51.3%) of rangatahi leaving school with at least NCEA 2 in 2011.4  Less than a quarter (23.4%) left school with the university entrance standard.5   NCEA Level 2 is generally the minimum entry requirement for tertiary study, whereas students achieving NCEA Level 3 are more likely to transition into bachelor’s-level study (Ussher, 2008).

While there is only a small body of recent work that directly explores Māori learners’ secondary school subject selection experiences, these studies point to secondary school subject choice as a barrier in the transition process.

Madjar et al. (2010) express concern at evidence unearthed in their recent study of the disconnection between some students’ NCEA subjects and standards completed at school, those students’ career aspirations, and the programmes they wanted to take or enrolled in at university. This was a study that followed the transition experiences of 44 secondary students to university, and involved 17 Māori learners. It found a common “lack of adequate guidance as [students] navigated their way through the NCEA system, often ending with an unfocused mix of subjects and standards” (p.82).

Conversely, those students in the Madjar study whose academic preparation was a stepping-stone in the transition process tended to have made an early and careful selection of NCEA subjects and standards, choosing Level 3 subjects appropriate to intended fields of study at university.

The qualitative research undertaken by Wikaire and Ratima (2011) with 10 key informants identified that levels of Māori participation and achievement, particularly in science subjects, was a major barrier to obtaining the relevant prerequisites for entry into health science and specifically into physiotherapy programmes. “This was attributed to: inadequate secondary education system responsiveness to Māori generally; lack of encouragement for Māori to pursue study of the relevant science subjects; and poor engagement of health career information and/or requirements for tertiary study” (p.478).

Young people interviewed by Kopu (2010a), an extensive engagement undertaken to understand youth transition experiences, also identified that they had experienced limited or no access to good career advice and a lack of appropriate support (from parents and from schools) to make pathway decisions, as well having experienced low teacher expectations.

Enablers and opportunitiesTop

Early goal setting and career advice and planning

Early goal setting and career advice and planning is identified as important to enabling Māori learners to link secondary subject choices with career aspirations and tertiary and vocational study.

Engaging secondary school students early (before secondary school Years 11–13 ) is identified as important as it is in the early years of secondary school that students select subjects that will either take them towards, or away from university study (Taurere, 2010).

Early goal setting and career advice and planning is identified as important to enabling Māori learners to link secondary subject choices with career aspirations and tertiary and vocational study. This is a key premise discussed by Taurere (2010) and by Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd (2012a) in a study that reviews Māori learners’ experiences transitioning to vocational and workplace training. Earle (2007) identified that learners are more likely to succeed if clear about study goals and career direction.

Madjar et al. (2010) also identified that early planning and careful selection of NCEA subjects, linked specifically to knowledge of, and aspirations towards pathways, goals and planned fields of study, was a key contributor in students’ determination and preparation to transition to tertiary study.

The young people in the research undertaken by Kopu (2010a) identified that they and their families needed quality career advice, information and support from people who genuinely cared about their future. This included being aware of the scope and range of career choices beyond university and polytechnics – with pathways to vocational education and training clearly defined and articulated.

Early information to Māori learners, parents and whānau

A key enabler contributing to transition success identified by Madjar et al. (2010) was that parents and other influential adults helped young people to think seriously about their future career goals and supported them to progress toward these goals. 

The literature identifies that goal setting and planning is strongly shaped by high family/whānau expectations, and their advice, support and encouragement to learners (Madjar et al., 2010; Ussher, 2008).

A key enabler contributing to transition success identified by Madjar et al. (2010) was that parents and other influential adults helped young people to think seriously about their future career goals and supported them to progress toward these goals (including in identifying and applying for scholarships).

For students in the Madjar study who had role models and mentors with university experience who could inspire, advise and support young people in their decisions, developing academic goals and realistic expectations of university study was made easier. Conversely, those students who did not have this support “tended to be less clear in their plans and less well prepared for the demands of a new learning environment” (p.88).

Taurere (2010) also points to several recent New Zealand studies confirmed that parents were often students’ main source of career guidance and support. However, as Taurere identifies, “without the base knowledge and understanding of the University Entrance regulations under NCEA, students and their families are totally dependent on the school system to make the best choices for them” (p.90). Moreover, the “University Entrance prescription requires sophisticated reading and comprehension skills and has the potential to confuse rather than clarify” (p.86).

Several recent New Zealand studies confirmed that parents were often students’ main source of career guidance and support.

Parents and whānau are key in instilling in their children the expectation that they are able to aspire to tertiary or vocational study, and can be a strong motivating influence. Therefore, it is important that there are opportunities for parents and whānau to receive clear information, to acquire knowledge, and to be involved early on in planning and supporting their children to make study choices, to set and plan goals, and to progress to tertiary study (Wikaire and Ratima, 2011).

Looking outside of the secondary school context, the importance of building whānau knowledge and involvement in career goal setting was also identified in a review of Māori youth transitions undertaken by Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) (2012a). That review reported that a characteristic of an effective youth transition service is one where whānau are engaged and receive information “about the courses and training options, course prerequisites, training providers, funding sources, student loans, and support services available to Māori students”.

The TPK review also points to the importance of engagement with whānau early on in young peoples’ career planning, as early involvement is likely to lead to ongoing participation in learners’ subsequent vocational or tertiary training. Engagement is best with whānau when face to face (Wikaire and Ratima, 2011, Taurere, 2010).

Māori learners need to be encouraged and supported to begin considering and planning for tertiary and vocational study from an early stage. They need to be guided and encouraged in their subject selection, and be provided with sufficient information to enable consideration of diverse study and career options.

In summary, it is important young Māori learners, their parents and whānau have an explicit awareness of the implications of subject choice at secondary school. Māori learners need to be encouraged and supported to begin considering and planning for tertiary and vocational study from an early stage, to be guided and encouraged in their subject selection, and to be provided with sufficient information to enable consideration of diverse study and career options and how to progress to these.

The role of TEOs in reaching out to rangatahi, parents and whānau

One of the critical elements needed to facilitate the transition process is the connection between school and university curricula and the extent to which academic preparation at secondary school level matches the expected entry knowledge and competencies of students enrolling in particular disciplines or programmes at university” (Madjar et al., 2010 p.84)

Schools and wharekura are instrumental in shaping Māori learners’ secondary school subject decisions and helping students link their future goals and career planning to tertiary and vocational pathway options. They also have a determining role in the extent to which TEOs reach out to Māori students, their parents and whānau (Taurere, 2010).

TEOs have an important and multifaceted role and influence in collaborating with schools and wharekura (Taurere, 2010; Kopu, 2010a; Madjar et al., 2010; Paterson, Wilson and Lawrence, 2008). This includes:

TEOs have an important and multifaceted role and influence in collaborating with schools and wharekura (Taurere, 2010; Kopu, 2010a; Madjar et al., 2010; Paterson, Wilson and Lawrence, 2008).

Equally, TEOs have a similar role engaging with iwi, industry, community organisations and agencies that interact with rangatahi.

TEOs should work to ensure that students, parents and their whānau understand the important link between secondary school subject and level choice and future study options.

Taurere’s (2010) paper reviewing the interface between universities and school career advisers discusses the role of TEOs in engaging directly with Māori students through two key mechanisms: 1) Māori liaison team recruitment visits to secondary schools to hold presentations and discussions specifically with Māori students; and 2) Facilitate events at TEOs that Māori school students attend to understand more about the programmes on offer, to learn about the environment, and to engage with, and to begin to form early relationships with other learners and staff.

An unpublished resource compiled by Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd (2012,b) and focused on enabling young Māori learner success, also refers to the place of expos, to show off the work and achievements of past learners, and to have current learners front the displays so that they can engage and relate to potential new learners.

Paterson, Wilson and Lawrence (2008) reviewed one secondary school’s initiative that provided mentoring and support to senior Māori students, and identified the significance a visit from a university’s Māori student support division made in engaging Māori students in the idea that university was something that they could aspire to.

Culturally specific engagement

The provision of information in a “Māori-to-Māori” context can be presented in way that is more meaningful or has more relevance for Māori.

Māori students in Paterson, Wilson and Lawrence’s study also visited a university and met with Māori university students in a Māori setting where the philosophy of the session relied on the concept of tuakana-teina and the reciprocal learning and teaching between older and younger students. While the authors did not discuss the impact of that approach, the incorporation of tikanga Māori, and a focus on key values such as tuakana-teina relationships, whānaungatanga, and manaakitanga, is identified in other literature as important to effectively engage Māori learners, parents and whānau, in tertiary transition discussions (TPK, 2012a).

In discussing an initiative called “STEAM”, which is aimed at encouraging Māori secondary school students to transition to university, Taurere (2010) identifies that Māori values underpin the initiative (see page 25) “[S]tudents are organised to work in groups and establish cohorts in recognition of the value of whakawhānaungatanga. University students rather than staff members are used as facilitators and guides to foster the tuakana-teina principle of support. The events make space for Māori to be Māori within non-Māori institutions” (p.67).

As Taurere discusses, the provision of information in a “Māori-to-Māori” context can be presented in way that is more meaningful or has more relevance for Māori. This is exemplified in an example shared in the review of Māori youth transitions by Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK). A whānau member who had not understood NCEA given the school’s comprehensive but “awful” delivery of information, subsequently developed a good understanding after attending a Māori-focused workshop because the facilitator used “whānau language”.

Examples of two tertiary outreach initiatives

Two outreach initiatives aimed specifically at engaging with Māori learners at secondary school are described in the literature. STEAM, an initiative of the University of Auckland; and Kei a Tātou te Ihi (KATTI) is a collaborative initiative involving numerous TEOs and other agencies. Common to both is the specific targeting of students in either Year 9 or 10, recognising the importance of reaching secondary school students early and before they make subject decisions that may impact on their future study choices. Students are engaged by Māori and meet Māori role models. In the case of STEAM (and possibly KATTI), Māori values inform the engagement. These initiatives are described on the next page.

STEAM – University of Auckland

Aim/focus
STEAM is targeted at building links between the university and Māori and Pacific secondary school students and increasing the participation of Māori and Pacific students, particularly in mathematics and science-related degrees.

It aims to inform and clarify for students the entry requirements for the university degree courses, to identify the range of courses available, and to encourage and motivate students to gain NCEA qualifications before leaving school.
Factors driving the initiative
STEAM was a result of an institutional Review of Equal Educational Opportunities (University of Auckland, 1998). At the time recruitment and promotion of university study was mainly limited to students in their final two years of secondary schooling. Subject choice was a significant issue because access and success in the STEAM degrees depended on Year 13 mathematics and science. The review suggested that targeting Year 9 or 10 students and using Māori and Pacific role models would be a more effective approach.
Activities
As at 2010, STEAM was offered on the university campus for secondary school students and targeted Year 10 Māori and Pacific secondary school students. STEAM encouraged students to study mathematics and science throughout the five years of secondary schooling to enable access to the widest range of university degrees.

STEAM was initially offered only to schools in the Auckland area but later extended to all schools in the North Island of New Zealand. Schools were asked to select a maximum of 10 students showing potential in mathematics and science to attend a one-day programme – each year this was offered for five days with up to one hundred Year 10 students from six to eight different schools attending each day.

The programme is a series of interactive workshops each based on a relevant degree. School students spend a day on campus in groups and rotate through all workshops. Tutors at each workshop are Māori and Pacific university students studying that particular degree.

Māori values underpin the event. Students work in groups and establish cohorts in recognition of the value of whakawhānaungatanga. University students rather than staff members are used as facilitators and guides to foster the tuakana-teina principle of support. The events make space for Māori to be Māori within non-Māori institutions.
Taurere, M. (2010)

Kei a Tātou te Ihi – KATTI – run collaboratively between several partnering TEOs

Aim/focus
This is a collaborative programme run by tertiary providers to encourage young Māori to succeed in school and to go on to further study. It involves the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Auckland, University of Otago, Auckland University of Technology, University of Waikato, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, Unitec, StudyLink, New Zealand Management Academy, Careers New Zealand and Massey University.
Factors driving the initiative
Māori liaison staff recognised that Year 13 is too late to start helping Māori to plan their tertiary study options and that this needed to begin in Year 10.
Activities
The programme rotates between different Auckland tertiary locations with representatives present from each participating organisation. Currently 35 schools engage with the initiative from the Auckland region and involves 650 students from Year 10. Year 11, 12, and 13 KATTI programmes are also run.

The initiative is “by Māori for Māori”. Students meet positive Māori role models and ambassadors from tertiary institutions.
http://www.manukau.ac.nz/about-us/press-room/2012-press-releases/october/the-mori-journey-to-tertiary-education (accessed 2 Nov 2012)

As with most other TEO initiatives described in the literature, information available about STEAM and KATTI does not include a discussion about the difference these initiatives have made in contributing to Māori learners’ transition experiences, including the impact of engaging with students in the earlier years of secondary school, and information about aspects of engagement that have worked well, or not, in engaging Māori learners. Neither initiative discusses the TEOs engagement with whānau.

Research and literature gapsTop

Impact of TEO secondary-school transition initiatives

As identified, there is a gap in the recent research literature discussing the impact and value of different TEO initiatives and approaches targeted specifically to reach, inform, and encourage Māori learners (and their parents and whānau) to aspire to tertiary and vocational study and to plan and link career goals to secondary school study choices.

Underpinning this is the limited amount of information about how and which Māori secondary students are “selected” to engage in, or access such initiatives. This matter is highlighted in Taurere’s (2010) thesis, which focuses on the central role of school career advisors in these decisions, and which also identified that the under the STEAM initiative, schools were requested to select a maximum of 10 students showing potential in the programmes presented.

Impact of government funded "transition initiatives"

There are a number of government-funded initiatives aimed at encouraging partnerships between secondary schools and TEOs to enable young learners to experience workplace training and tertiary study options and to link their studies to future career pathways, including the completion of lower-level credits, whilst still in secondary school.

These initiatives include the Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR), Gateway, Modern Apprenticeships Scheme, and Youth Training and Training Opportunities (now encompassing Youth Guarantee, Foundation Focused Training Opportunities (FFTO) and Training for Work), which were initially outputs of an earlier government Youth Transitions Strategy aimed in part to raise the profile of transitions between school and tertiary or employment (National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, 2009).

Several new Trades Academy partnerships between secondary schools and TEOs have also recently been established, which provide 16- and 17-year-olds the opportunity to gain practical skills while studying at a TEO or a workplace for NCEA credits and tertiary qualifications.

However, there is a lack of current evaluative evidence of the overall impact such initiatives have made in the transition process for Māori learners, and the extent to which these have assisted Māori students to make robust secondary subject choices that are strongly linked to desired study or training pathways. For example, to what extent are these initiatives facilitating learners to develop career goals and plan study choices? How is involvement in these initiatives affecting decisions to complete Level 3 NCEA?

An earlier evaluation of the STAR initiative was conducted in 2004 but did not provide information analysed by ethnicity. The Gateway pilot was evaluated in 2003 and identified that Pasifika and Māori students gained higher average credit achievements in 2001 and 2002 than other ethnic groups, however, the level of credit attainment was not identified (Ibid, 2009).

Moreover, despite the literature identifying the need to engage school students early, it is of note that these government-funded initiatives described are predominantly aimed at students 15 years of age or older and in more senior stages of secondary schooling.

Few initiatives aimed at younger secondary school learners

There appears to be very few specific initiatives identified in the literature that are geared towards supporting younger secondary school students to begin thinking and planning study options linked to pre-determined career goals. A recent exception appears to be the MIT Tertiary High School described on the next page.

He Toki ki te Rika is one such TEO and iwi-led partnership supported by industry and government.

Manukau Institute of Technology Tertiary High School

Aim, focus and factors driving the initiative
In 2010, the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) commenced delivery of its Tertiary High School, which is a partnership between secondary schools and MIT. This provides the opportunity for students who in Year 10 seem unlikely to succeed in the school setting but who are interested in a career pathway appropriate to an institute of technology, to combine Year 11 with tertiary pathway courses to complete NCEA Level 3 and a two-year Career and Technical Education qualification.
Activities
Students are socialised into the tertiary environment. They are provided with targeted academic and pastoral support and career pathways guidance and there is a focus on developing numeracy, literacy, and technology skills in the context of completing NCEA, working towards industry recognised trades and professional qualifications. The involvement of parents, family and whānau is actively encouraged.
As described by Middleton, S. undated PowerPoint Presentation

Early insights into Māori learner transitions have identified the impact of financial pressure on decisions to choose employment over completing qualifications. The importance of strong pastoral care and pre-training foundation skills training has also been highlighted (Te Tapuae o Rehua, 2011).

Understanding other transition experiences, barriers and enablers

The literature is weighted by a focus on Māori learners’ transitions from secondary school to university. There is currently only a small body of literature contributing to an understanding of Māori learners’ transition to vocational and employment-based training (for example, Kāhui Tautoko Ltd’s 2012). Transition experiences from wharekura are missing.

Research is lacking on how TEOs may be reaching and supporting the transition of Māori learners who are NEET, and the barriers and enablers to their transitions.

There is a lack of information on non-school transitions, and relationships that TEOs may have with iwi, industry and community agencies to support Māori learners into tertiary education. Insights into such initiatives could contribute rich information from different perspectives to understand Māori learners’ transition experiences in the employment-training area, as well as barriers and enablers to progression to higher levels of study.

He Toki ki te Rika is one such TEO and iwi-led partnership supported by industry and government.

Impact of financial barriers

Early insight into Māori learner transitioning have identified the impact of financial pressure on decisions to choose employment over completing qualifications. The importance of strong pastoral care and pre-training foundation skills training has also been highlighted (Te Tapuae o Rehua, 2011).

While financial considerations are widely identified as a limitation to participation and retention in tertiary education, research on the extent of its influence on transition decisions, and what works to overcome financial barriers, is limited. However, as identified by Wiseley (2009), this is likely a significant factor impacting on Māori learner transition to tertiary education and to higher study.

Students in Wiseley’s study indicated that the no-fees option at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa had been a key factor in enabling their participation in tertiary education. Financial barriers were also identified as being the tipping point in programme choice and in shaping Māori learners’ decisions to select less costly lower-level courses that take less time to complete, rather than higher-level programmes of study.

A further related financial barrier canvassed in the literature, is the relationship between fees-free courses available to beneficiaries at lower levels only, as well as the requirement placed on students in receipt of welfare benefits to leave study if offered employment.6

Key findings about secondary school transitions to tertiary
for rangatahiTop

Key barriers

Key enablers include TEOs’ relationships with schools and wharekura to develop initiatives focused on encouraging students to aspire to tertiary study, ensuring key information is available to students, and fostering TEO engagement with learners and whānau.

Key enablers and opportunities

3Leach, L., & Zepke, N. (2005). Student decision-making by prospective tertiary students: A review of existing New Zealand and overseas literature. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.
4www.educationcounts.govt.nz/indicators/main/education-and-learning-outcomes/1781
5See note 2.
6An anecdotal example of a student being required by Work and Income to withdraw from a course to accept employment was recounted in the study with Māori providers undertaken by Phillps and Mitchell (2010).