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Maharey Speech To Bridging Educators Assn

Hon Steve maharey Speech Notes

Inaugural Conference Of The NZ Association Of Bridging Educators

Address to the Inaugural Conference of the NZ Association of Bridging Educators. Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland.


Thank you for doing me the honour of inviting me to speak to the Inaugural Conference of the New Zealand Association of Bridging Educators.

I want to start today by examining what we mean by bridging education.

I like the definition that I saw in a paper prepared for Ministers and officials by some who are present here today:

"Bridging education is the term used in New Zealand to describe educational programmes for students who want to access tertiary education but who do not have the traditional credentials qualifications for entry."

Breaking that down even further there are some key words, 'access', and 'qualifications for entry'.

Access and opportunity

Let me start with access.

This institution that we are meeting at today is our institution ¡V it is our institution because we are the peoples of this place. It is our institution in particular for the members of the civic and regional community it serves ¡V Manukau City and its people, local businesses, the central government departments and agencies in this region, and the community and voluntary sector. It is our institution because it is largely funded by tax-payers (the Chief Executive will no doubt tell me that we don't provide sufficient funding, and I would say that we are working to remedy that).

This institution is a quality institution, but, as I have said on a number of occasions, when we speak of tertiary education we should not confuse quality with privilege. I sense that for many members of the community the institutions of higher learning are seen as somewhat elitist, as meeting the education and learning requirements for the privileged few.

It is a difficult balance to achieve ¡V higher education is special, should be valued, should not be taken for granted, and does have a certain mystery about it. These are special places, and we see that reflected in the faces of students ¡V and not just on their first day. We see that reflected in the faces and responses of the visitors to these places. We see it reflected in the faces of those who come for the first time to celebrate the achievement of those who have successfully completed their studies here.

And that is at the heart of what bridging education is all about. It is about retaining what is special, but it is about ensuring that what is special is made available to all those in the community who possess the ability and motivation to be part of tertiary education.

It is something of a national past time to beat up on the compulsory education sector ¡V to rehearse the litany of failures on the part of schools. And no one can deny that there have been problems. Equally I would say that no one can question the commitment of this Government, and in particular of my friend and colleague Trevor Mallard, to ensuring that the school system has the resources to deliver quality education to all students.

In my day ¡V and I am not that ancient ¡V you could leave school at 15 and get a job, and many did. I left school early and went straight into a job. But I eventually went to University and ended up teaching at a University.

What does my experience tell us?

Firstly it suggests that there a lot of people of my age, and younger as well, for whom staying on at school and getting a qualification was not a goal. I didn't need a qualification to get a job ¡V then ¡V and so I left.

Secondly it demonstrates the importance of being able to access education that allows those who left school, early, or who left school without gaining qualifications, to go on to tertiary education. For me, bridging education made the difference. For me that bridging education took the form of night school classes that I could access.

I am doing what I am today because I was able to access bridging education.

And of course these days, increasingly tertiary education is the pathway to employment. Qualifications open the door to participation in the labour market.

I enjoyed school, and chose to leave early. Others left because they had no choice. That is still the case for some.

Some people don't have find memories of school, but they do have the capacity and the desire to learn. For some people coming back into a learning situation is incredibly difficult because they associate learning with the fear, if not the reality of failure, and with methods of learning that were more punitive than enabling.

This is why we need bridging education. I agree with bridging educators when they say that;

* It does address issues of equity
* It does increase the accessible talent pool
* It does have the economic benefit of helping to lift capacity to match opportunity ¡V reducing unemployment and the costs that go with it
* It does increase participation in education, particularly for groups traditionally under-represented in tertiary education

It is about equity, and it is about efficiency. It is good public policy because it is about economic and social goals and outcomes.

In a paper provided to Ministers of Education and Officials the opportunities for bridging education are summarised in the following way:

"Tertiary education is increasingly the pathway to employment. Recognition of this is demonstrated in increasing rates of participation, diversification of providers and statistical links between participation in tertiary education and level of income. The population projections for New Zealand indicate a significant shift in the relative sizes of Maori and Pacific Nations people. These groups are the most under-represented in tertiary education. As a result they have significantly reduced opportunities to access the follow-on workforce participation that is one of the potential benefits of tertiary education. To have the size of under-represented groups grow significantly without making provision to increase participation in tertiary education for these groups, would have long term negative impacts on New Zealand's economic functioning.

Obstacles and opportunities

I am aware that bridging educators have identified a number of obstacles to the further development of bridging education, including:

* The fact that the field in New Zealand is a fragmented one
* There is no apparent policy relating to the field
* There is very little research to inform policy development
* There is thus no strategic vision to prompt and guide decision making about standards, funding and professional development

In addressing some of these issues let me first affirm your commitment by restating a long-standing commitment of the Labour Party ¡V one that we have carried through to Government and share with our Alliance colleagues.

Before the last election we started categorically that we would,

"make sure that all young New Zealanders have access to education and training opportunities, so that at all stages of their lives students can learn progressively and build easily on their existing knowledge.¡¨

We also stated our commitment ¡§to ensuring that all New Zealanders, regardless of their background, have access to tertiary education.¡¨

In short, we came to Government with a commitment to bridging education.

We recognise that one size doesn¡¦t fit all. Learners come from a variety of different backgrounds and need a variety of pathways through which they may enter tertiary education. Some learners need additional support and opportunities for a range of reasons, which all impact on their readiness and ability to participate and achieve in tertiary education.

Since coming to office, our aim has been to create clear pathways for all learners into tertiary education.

Some of these learning pathways will be through industry training and work experience ¡V programmes such as Modern Apprenticeships, and Gateway which is about bridging secondary school education and post-school work-based vocational education and training. In addition the Secondary-Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR) enables schools to purchase or provide higher-cost tertiary level programmes. This allows senior secondary students to undertake courses of study and/or workplace experience that lead to skills and qualifications that facilitate the transition from school to further education.

We are working on making the transition from school to tertiary study easier.

The National Certificate in Education Achievement (NCEA) is a new qualification that will be introduced in schools from 2002. Aspects of its design are aimed at ensuring that the qualification is flexible in the range of learning that can be recognised, and recognition of the learning standard achieved.

Students can accumulate credit from curriculum-based achievement standards and/or from industry-based unit standards at each level of the NCEA. The NCEA will also be awarded by post-school providers, allowing second chance opportunities for those who did not achieve a secondary-level qualification while still at school. The flexibility in crediting components of other qualifications within the NCEA will enable students to complete an NCEA while studying for a tertiary qualification.

Other pathways will be through foundation and sometimes bridging programmes for job seekers like Training Opportunities and Youth Training. Training Opportunities is designed to assist people with low qualifications or limited skills to gain recognised qualifications and to move into further education and training or employment. The programme is delivered by Skill New Zealand on behalf of the Department of Work and Income.

An average of 8,421 trainees participate in Training Opportunities at any one time. On average, each trainee participating in the programme in 1999/2000 achieved 20 credits on the NQF. The proportion of trainees achieving a positive outcome (ie. moving into employment or further education) increased from 54 percent in 1998 to 60 percent in 1999. 11,500 trainees moved into employment or further education after leaving the programme in 1999.

Youth Training provides targeted training opportunities for around 13,000 students (around 5,300 at any one time) aged between 15 and 17 each year. $65 million is spent on Youth Training each year from Vote Education. In 1999, 64 percent of all trainees moved on to further education (26 percent) or employment (38 percent) within 2 months of leaving the programme.

In addition adult and community education provides opportunities for a variety of people to participate in tertiary education. Adult and community education (ACE), which happens in a range of environments, provides a bridge to further learning opportunities. ACE is an important form of educational provision for those who may have benefited least from formal education. It promotes a culture of lifelong learning, active democracy, cultural development, and increased control over the future for individuals and communities.

Let me now turn to the bridging programmes offered by tertiary institutions.

We recognise that bridging programmes offered by tertiary education institutions are a key component of this wide range of initiatives designed to provide additional support and opportunities for people to enter into, and succeed in, tertiary education. As I understand it bridging education complements the other programmes I have outlined by providing a comprehensive range of study options specifically designed to help students who do not have the traditional credentials or qualifications required for entry into academic study at tertiary education institutions. These programmes provide the ¡¥way¡¦ for those who have the ¡¥will¡¦.

Bridging Education courses, or Foundation Education programmes, have been offered by many of our tertiary education institutions since the mid-1980¡¦s. For example, at 31 July 2000, there were 1,522 students enrolled in General Foundation Courses at tertiary institutions throughout the country. The Government supports these programmes through EFTS-based tuition subsidies.

Future challenges

What needs to be done?

In considering the future of bridging education in this country it seems to me that there are a lot of questions to be asked:

* Who exactly are we providing bridging education for?
* Who should we be providing bridging education for ¡V who needs bridging education? Should bridging education only cater for learners aged 21 and over?
* What access issues are specific to New Zealand? How are they different to those of other countries?
* How effective are the bridging programmes currently being offered? How could they be improved?
* What role should government play in the provision of bridging education in this country?
* How should bridging education be funded?

In terms of questions, these are perhaps the tip of the iceberg. Research will be critical in providing informed answers to these questions.

For your part bridging educators have indicated three priority issues that need to be addressed:

* Increased Ministry of Education funded research projects to inform policy development

* Development of a supportive policy position

* Inclusion in profile and trends reporting by the Ministry of Education within the tertiary education sector

I have discussed all three of these issues with my colleague Trevor Mallard, and we have directed officials to undertake some initial work.

Let me start with the second of these ¡V a supportive policy position. The short answer is, 'you have it'; the longer version is, 'and it is going to be further developed'. We are a Government of life-long learning, and that means we are a Government that is serious about bridging education.

Let me now turn to the first ¡V increased research projects to inform policy development. You are clearly setting the pace. I understand that the Manukau Institute of Technology is funding a research survey of bridging programmes in New Zealand tertiary education institutions, the preliminary results of which are to be presented today. I am excited about this work and the initiative of Manukau Institute of Technology in undertaking this survey.

Such research will be invaluable in informing policy development in this area and progressing the development of bridging education in New Zealand. This is a challenge that government and tertiary education providers must tackle together.

I have asked the Ministry to place bridging education on their research agenda. The Ministry has provided me with an initial report on examples of bridging education overseas and I have attached that report to these speech notes for your information. I would value receiving any comments that you might wish to make.

Turning to the third issue ¡V inclusion of bridging education in profile reports,
once we have clearly identified the bridging programmes provided in New Zealand and meeting already defined criteria, we should be able to begin reporting on their achievements.

Each year, the Ministry of Education publishes New Zealand¡¦s Tertiary Education Sector Profile and Trends. I am pleased to announce today that, following representations from your Association I have asked the Ministry of Education to include a section on bridging education in the profile report on the academic year 2000, which will be published later this year. The Ministry will need to reach agreement with the sector on what is to be included in this report, by 15 June 2001. I invite you to contact the Ministry as soon as possible.


The current mix of policy aims to create clear pathways for all learners into tertiary education, and I have mentioned some of them already.

Current policy work, including the industry training review, adult literacy strategy, benefit reform, workforce 2010, and education and training for 16-19 year olds, has identified the need for a comprehensive evaluation of how the Government best supports the education of low-skilled people with low qualifications and low participation in employment.

The Tertiary Education Advisory Commission¡¦s (TEAC¡¦s) report, Shaping the System, canvasses a range of education interventions, which provide entry-level qualifications and work skills, improve literacy, and lead to further education and employment..

The common indicator for those who access such programmes is low levels of qualifications, and it applies to both employed and those out of the labour force ¡V youth and adults. Several groups are over-represented here, including Maori, Pacific peoples, and people of other ethnicities and from non-English speaking backgrounds.

I have already discussed with my officials how best to improve participation and achievement of under-represented groups in tertiary education. Support for bridging education will be considered in this framework which forms the basis of a project which will draw together a range of streams of work which are investigating how we can improve opportunities for entry into achievement in tertiary education, particularly for those who are currently under-represented there.

The formation of the New Zealand Association of Bridging Educators is a positive development, and your conference today is important in promoting discussion and development of the field of bridging education in New Zealand. I wish you well with this.

Bridging Education ¡V examples from overseas
(excerpts from a Ministry of Education report prepared for the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education))


1 This report adds to our previous report to you on Bridging Education ¡K It provides additional information on policy and research on bridging education overseas, particularly in Australia and in the United Kingdom.
2 Bridging education is one of many possible mechanisms used to improve access to, and achievement in, tertiary education for students otherwise disadvantaged by social or economic circumstances, by language difficulties, by disability, or by a low level of qualifications.
3 As noted in our previous paper, bridging education is the term used in New Zealand to describe educational programmes for students who want to access tertiary education but do not have the traditional credentials or qualifications required for entry.
United Kingdom

4 Bridging education programmes are particularly well established in the United Kingdom (UK) because restrictions on entry into tertiary or higher education in the UK are greater than in New Zealand for those over 20 years of age. In the United Kingdom, Access to Higher Education Programmes are entry routes into Higher Education (HE) specifically designed for ¡§mature students (over 21 years of age) and groups under-represented in HE, such as the unemployed, people with disabilities, minority ethnic groups, and those from socio-economic backgrounds where entry to HE is not traditional.¡¨
5 The Access programmes provide the underpinning knowledge and skills needed to progress to a degree or diploma course at a university or college. They enable mature students who lack the necessary educational background, such as O levels, General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs), A levels or Advanced General National Vocational Qualifications (AGNVQs), to acquire the equivalent Access to HE qualification. The UK Government has identified Access to HE programmes as ¡¥the third recognised route to HE¡¦, alongside A levels and AGNVQs.
6 Typical Access programmes take either a year full-time or one or two years part-time, and would cover subject modules or units, key skills in information technology and numeracy and communication, study skills; and tutorial support. Access programmes are often discipline-related or related to progression to particular professions, such as law, nursing, or teaching. Access programmes are provided through further education colleges, adult education centres and some higher education institutions.
7 Although the overall policy framework is UK-wide, Access programmes in the UK are developed, recognised and delivered through two separate systems - one for Scotland, and one for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
8 The framework for the recognition of Access programmes in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has three elements:
* the Quality Assurance Authority (QAA) recognises all programmes and regulates standards;
* regionally-based Authorised Validating Agencies (AVAs), licensed by the QAA, approve Access to HE courses and award QAA certificates of national recognition to students; and
* local providers of Access programmes deliver the courses and recommend learners to the AVAs for the award of certificates.
9 There are thirty-three AVAs and approximately 1200 programmes currently registered by the QAA, which cater for about 40,000 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
10 A similar system operates in Scotland for the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP), involving the Scottish Credit Accumulation and Transfer (SCOTCAT) system, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), and the Scottish Advisory Committee on Credit and Access (SACCA).
Success of Access programmes

11 The QAA website asserts that ¡§many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) welcome applications from Access students as they tend to be highly motivated with good learning habits and sound study and time management skills. There is plenty of evidence of Access students successfully gaining places in HE. They may perform as well as, if not better than, younger students presenting other qualifications.¡¨
12 We have not yet found an independent assessment of Access programmes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which could confirm this reported success. Two studies which have assessed the effectiveness of the Scottish Wider Access Program (SWAP), report that SWAP has been successful in building confidence. However, students who had become accustomed to the modular, continuous assessment, criterion-referenced approach used on Access courses often felt unprepared for the workload and intensity of degree programs, worried that their knowledge was fragmented and that some SWAP modules were too easy, and were highly critical of a lack of examination practice on Access courses. Nonetheless, the majority of both current and former SWAP students felt satisfied with their preparation for higher education. Most students were attracted to SWAP by the offer of a guaranteed place in higher education.

13 Since the introduction of the Commonwealth Higher Education Equity Programme (HEEP) in 1985 by the Australian Federal Government, there has been considerable growth in the number of university access programmes operating for disadvantaged persons in Australia.
14 In 1990, the Australian Federal Government reaffirmed its commitment to equity in higher education in its statement A Fair Chance for All: Higher Education that¡¦s within everyone¡¦s reach.
15 A Fair Chance for All outlined the broad federal policy objectives, and the responsibilities of institutions, and also presented a range of strategies appropriate to increase the representation of disadvantaged groups. Bridging programmes were proposed as appropriate mechanisms, among many others, to assist four of these groups:
„h Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
„h people from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds;
„h people from rural and isolated areas; and
„h women, especially for entry into science and mathematics.
16 Implementation of bridging programmes is the responsibility of individual institutions, and each institution is required to prepare an equity plan which forms part of each institution¡¦s educational profile on which Commonwealth funding is based.
Success of Bridging programmes within HEEP

17 Several studies, summarised and referenced more extensively in Appendix One, have assessed HEEP programmes as being successful in:
„h increasing the participation of groups traditionally under-represented in higher education (McNamee, 1995);
„h increasing the numbers of Aboriginals in higher education studies (Munn and Stephenson, 1994);
„h improving motivation, confidence and problem solving for students (Bourke, Cantwell and Arthur, 1998);
„h leading to higher than expected achievement for students (Lake, 1998);
„h improving study skills, literacy and numeracy (Murphy et al., 1992); and
„h equipping mature adult women with the skills essential for tertiary level study (Fulmer and Jenkins, 1992).
United States

18 In the United States, developmental education appears to be the equivalent of bridging education in New Zealand. Developmental education is a field of practice and research within higher education with a theoretical foundation in developmental psychology and learning theory. It promotes the cognitive and affective growth of all post-secondary learners, at all levels of the learning continuum.
19 Developmental education programmes and services commonly address academic preparedness, diagnostic assessment and placement, development of general and discipline-specific learning strategies, and affective barriers to learning.
20 The National Association of Developmental Educators (NADE) provides a national overview for the improvement of the theory and practice of developmental education in education, the professional capabilities of developmental educators, and the design of programmes to prepare developmental educators. The organisation is a non-profit, non-partisan education association composed of nearly 3,000 from across the United States, and a growing number of educators from around the world.
Goals of Developmental Education

21 The goals of development education, as prepared by the NADE, are:
„h to preserve and make possible educational opportunity for each post-secondary learner;
„h to develop in each learner the skills and attitudes necessary for the attainment of academic career and life goals;
„h to ensure proper placement by assessing each learner¡¦s level of preparedness for college course work;
„h to maintain academic standards by enabling learners to acquire competencies needed for success in mainstream college courses;
„h to enhance the retention of students; and
„h to promote the continued development and application of cognitive and affective learning theory.

Appendix one

Summary of Australian studies of effectiveness of bridging programmes in the Commonwealth Higher Education Equity Programme (HEEP)

In assessing the success of access programmes under HEEP, McNamee (1995) concluded that, while it is acknowledged that these programmes have been successful in their aim of increasing the participation of groups traditionally under-represented in higher education, these access programmes, by their adoption of a deficit model of disadvantage and the need for compensatory action, serve to divert attention away from the causes of inequality to the treatment of it.

Munn and Stephenson (1994) concluded that bridging education since the mid 1970s, has been used to advantage by Aboriginals to increase their representation in higher education studies.

Several studies have assessed the value of specific bridging programmes.

Bourke, Cantwell and Arthur (1998) found that the achievement levels in degree studies of students who entered undergraduate studies at the University of Newcastle through an equity programme, the Open Foundations Course (OFC), did not differ from others who entered through ¡¥normal¡¦ means, commonly the NSW Higher School Certificate. However, some of their attitudes did differ. With respect to motivation, the ex-OFC students had higher mastery goals and lower academic alienation than the other students. They also had greater confidence in problem solving, planning and self appraisal.

Collins (1993) had earlier found that the University of Newcastle programme is effective in enhancing student performance, partly by its presentation of subject matter, partly by inculcating study habits early in the year, and partly by convincing some students to delay or avoid contact with certain subjects in their degrees.

Lake (1998) found that the Murdoch University programme ¡§Introduction to University Learning¡¨, which revolves around understanding the university as a culture, and the relationship between the self and the culture, was highly successful. Despite comprising only those students initially floundering in other subjects and considering withdrawing, those in the programme performed beyond expectations in all subjects with few failures, and many exceptional grades. Students attributed their success to the programme¡¦s personal approach.

Murphy et al (1992) reported that graduates of New Start, which is a tertiary preparatory programme offered by the University of Western Sydney, Nepean, report that they benefited from the informal mode of tuition which focused on small group learning and emphasised support by student tutors ,not only in relation to increased study skills, literacy and numeracy but also through development of a greater sense of self confidence, motivation and achievement. Their increased sense of self confidence was partially derived from having gained familiarity with university surroundings, procedures, staff and students.

Fulmer and Jenkins (1992) reported on a bridging course designed and implemented to assist mature adult women from a low socio-economic region to gain access to tertiary education. They found that it succeeded in informing the women's decisions and equipping the majority with skills essential for tertiary level study. In the academic strand, significant changes from concrete to abstract modes of learning style were observed, while in the non-academic sphere there was a significant change of preference from feeling to thinking styles of decision making. Twenty-one per cent of participants withdrew and indicated that the course had provided sufficient insight that they were not willing to make a continuing commitment to study at such a demanding level.


Bourke S; Cantwell R; and Archer J (1998) Evaluation of an equity program for university entrance. In 'Transformation in higher education : conference proceedings'. Auckland NZ : Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia.

Collins, J (1993) Short bridging courses: do they make a difference? Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education v.33 n.2 p.101-109.

Fulmer A, and Jenkins H I(1992) Evaluating a tertiary access program for mature age women. Higher Education Research & Development v.11 n.1 p.45-60

Lake, D (1998) Helping under-prepared students. pages 160-165 In 'Teaching and learning in changing times : the proceedings of the 7th Annual Teaching and Learning Forum, 4 and 5 February, 1998, The University of Western Australia' compiled by Barbara Black and Natalie Stanley,. Nedlands WA: University of Western Australia. Centre for Staff Development.

McNamee, P J (1995) Bridging gaps: an analysis of access programmes for persons of disadvantaged backgrounds. Innovations in Education and Training International v.32 n.2 p.106-111.

Munn P D; Stephenson J A (1994) Bridging education as a development process. Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education v.34 n.2 p.149-154.

Murphy J; Cobbin D; and Barlow A (1992) Long term perceptions of the university of Western Sydney's preparatory program, New Start. Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education v.32 n.2 p.99-108.

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