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Pioneering Programme celebrates success

25 June 2014

Pioneering Programme celebrates success

Four years after Manukau Institute of Technology’s (MIT) groundbreaking Tertiary High School opened its doors, the founder says its time to celebrate success.

The Tertiary High School (THS) is one of five initiatives developed by MIT’s Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways and offers students who struggle to succeed in a conventional high school environment the opportunity to undertake concurrent secondary and tertiary studies

“Our Multiple Pathways programme is changing the trajectory of young people’s lives,” says the centre’s founder and director, Dr Stuart Middleton. “We’re offering young people choices in the way that they learn and connecting the dots between high school, tertiary study and employment.”

In addition to THS, the Multiple Pathways centre works with trade academies, high schools and local businesses to develop customised programmes aimed at bridging the gap between secondary school, tertiary education and employment.

The centre was recently named as one of three finalists for the Takatū Education Focus Prize in this year’s inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards. Middleton says the achievement is recognition of the team’s extraordinary efforts to find new learning pathways in collaboration with schools and employers. “Our staff and students work tirelessly to pursue alternative routes to educational and career success,” says Middleton.

The idea for the Multiple Pathways programme was conceived in 2007, when Middleton, a specialist in the teaching of English in linguistically diverse communities, spent a year studying underachievement and failure in secondary schools as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Middleton found that up to 30 per cent of secondary students were failing to engage with education long enough to equip themselves for further study or employment.

“The mainstream education system doesn’t work for everyone,” says Middleton. “Some students don’t learn well in the traditional classroom environment, especially if their schooling has been disrupted by personal circumstances. Others struggle to make the transition between school and employment or further study.”

Middleton and MIT staff worked with local secondary schools and government agencies to devise a concept for a programme that would target at-risk students before they hit the critical point of disengagement from the education system. The programme would provide alternative routes to secondary school and trade qualifications and an early, seamless transition to tertiary education and employment.

“Our goal is to foster success where it might not otherwise exist,” says Middleton. “We offer students choices in the way that they learn, and connect the dots between secondary school education and employment.”

The programme’s first initiative was the Tertiary High School (THS), where students are able to complete their NCEA qualifications and study towards tertiary qualifications at the same time. They remain enrolled “at school” without being “in school” and work with families, mentors and teachers to develop individual learning pathways that will take them from school, through career and trade education, to employment.

THS is the first school of its kind among English-speaking nations and before the school could open its doors in 2010, legislation had to be changed to allow students to enroll concurrently in secondary and tertiary institutions. Students are recommended by high schools in the Counties-Manukau area, and usually join THS in year 10 or 11. Critically, there are no fees for either the secondary or tertiary component.

While the programme offers students greater learning flexibility, it also demands a high level of personal responsibility. “No-one is ringing the bell or chasing them to get to class on time,” says Middleton. “Our students know that if they don’t show up, there will be personal consequences down the line.”

The results so far are impressive. “If you assess the success of THS by NZQA standards, we are achieving the same pass rates as Auckland’s Decile 10 schools,” says Middleton.

Students’ families are also reporting positive changes in self-esteem and general happiness, as well as improved family relationships and atmosphere.

In addition to THS, the Multiple Pathways programme pairs MIT staff with local high schools, trade academies, employers and an education trust to create customised programmes integrating trade education and tertiary study into secondary school learning and smoothing the transition between work and study.

For the last two years, MIT has worked with Auckland International Airport Ltd to develop an internship programme with airport retailers. At the end of the internships, 15 of the 30 students were offered permanent jobs with airport retailers, while eight returned to MIT for further study and five gained employment elsewhere as a direct result of the internship. This year the internship programme will be expanding to work with local business associations and the Auckland Council’s Southern Initiative.

“With our multiple pathways approach, students can see that their individual learning journey is directly connected to their future prospects,” says Middleton. “Many students are invigorated by the sense of autonomy and discover a new capacity to learn – with a resulting boost in self worth.

We’re proud to say that our programme is transforming young people’s future for the better.”

MIT’s Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways seeks to provide multiple routes to education and career success through the following programmes:

1. The Tertiary High School – the centre’s pioneering programme. Students can study NCEA classes, while simultaneously undertaking tertiary courses. Fees are free.

2. Collaboration with trade academies - MIT staff work with four trade acadamies to develop and deliver tailor-made trade certification programmes in mechanical engineering and carpentry.

3. Collaboration with local high schools - MIT staff work with 13 local high schools to develop and deliver customised programmes in non-conventional school subjects such as logistics, business administration, construction and information technology. Students gain NCEA qualifications, while getting a taste of tertiary and vocational learning.

4. Internships – Following on from the success of the Auckland International Airport internship programme, MIT is developing internship programmes with the Wiri, Old Papatoetoe Mainstreet, and Greater East Tamaki business assocations, as well as working with local manufacturers.

5. Education trust - MIT works with the cME Mentoring Trust to bring 70 high school students on campus one day per week to study for the Certificate in Engineering, Level 2. Despite the missed day of school, many schools report that students’ performance improves across other subjects, as they see the connection between education and employment, and enjoy success in the hands-on programme. Work experience is a key component and over the last three years, 80% of students have gone on to achieve employment at the conclusion of the programme.


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