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UCOL | Te Pūkenga Wairarapa Bridges Educational Gap For Ākonga Māori

UCOL | Te Pukenga are celebrating a significant increase in course completion rates of ākonga Māori (Māori learners), almost closing the gap when compared with non-Māori ākonga.

The campus’ completion rates are bucking a national trend, with a recent RNZ report showing that nationally, university completion rates in general had dropped, with larger drops for ākonga Māori and Pasifika.

Campus Director UCOL Wairarapa, Carrie McKenzie, says that ākonga Māori enrolled at the campus have shown an improvement of 18.17 percent over the last three years.

“In 2019, there was an 18.83 percent gap in completion rates between ākonga Māori and non-Māori. Last year, this had reduced to a very narrow 0.66 percent. Our Bachelor of Nursing programme specifically, has seen remarkable results with course completions for ākonga Māori sitting at an impressive 90.31 percent in 2022 compared to 88.28 percent in 2021.

“We attribute this improvement to our focus on creating a more welcoming, inclusive, and culturally aware learning environment, a strong and present leadership team, committed and skilled kaimahi (staff), and a relationship-based teaching practice called Te Atakura.”

“We’ve been on a journey trying to change the mindset of our kaimahi and our campus culture to uplift everybody.

“Te Atakura involves us coaching our kaimahi on ways we can create a better learning environment for ākonga Māori and Pasifika. While the focus is on these learners, we know that what works for Māori and Pasifika, works for non-Māori too. This way, everyone benefits.”

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“In our Wairarapa campus, the tutor knows your name, your whakapapa, whether you’re in class or not, any barriers to learning, and how we can support that. We’re helping our ākonga to be more connected and ultimately more engaged in the classroom. It also helps that our class sizes are slightly smaller here too.”

Ms McKenzie says they have worked to increase the use of te reo Māori as well as the ratio of Māori and Pasifika kaimahi to better reflect the ākonga they teach.

“Our Pouahurea (Cultural Competency Advisor) provides te reo Māori lessons to 85 percent of our kaimahi and we’re seeing the results. In a recent student survey, 75 percent of our ākonga said their tutor uses te reo Māori in class all the time.

“Over 47 percent of our kaimahi are now Māori and Pasifika too. It’s important for our ākonga to see this diversity. We know if you’re in a classroom and being taught by someone who looks like you and understands your culture, you’re going to get a better result.”

Third-year UCOL nursing ākonga, Chevonne Meier (Tainui-Ngāti Maniapoto), agrees that seeing more diversity can be a huge motivator for ākonga Māori.

“When I saw a Māori nurse become a lecturer here, I felt so inspired. It’s been hard studying while being a solo māmā to my seven-year-old daughter, but having a kaiako Māori on campus really helped me during times when I started questioning whether I was in over my head.”

“Te Mana Tauira (Student Success team) have been an absolute rock for me too. They understand that all this outside stuff is happening, and they try to make it easier for me so I can get back into class. Every time I’ve wanted to give up, they’ve come to me and asked what I need, covered my kai expenses, showed me what support I can get, and what scholarships are available.”

“It’s made a huge difference! I started off getting C’s and B’s, but now I’m getting straight A’s. I never imagined this would be possible, and I put it down to the support I receive.”

Ākonga Te Rangimarie ‘Bling’ Henare-Matiaha (Kahungunu, Rangitāne and Raukawa) and Allan Maile (Tonga), believe that the environment UCOL has created on the Wairarapa Campus has significantly enhanced their learning journeys.

“It’s the reason we’ve been able to build relationships with people that would be outside of our typical bubble. Thanks to the wairua that has been created on campus, we work alongside them, and say hi to our classmates not only in class but also when we see each other on the weekend,” says Mr Maile.

“When I was cleaning at night, I saw heaps of our kaimahi in reo classes with matua and whaea too. This was such an awesome feeling to see that the kaimahi who were not of Māori descent were now applying themselves to learn my reo. I buzzed out,“ says Ms Henare-Matiaha.

“We are so proud of what our kaimahi and ākonga have achieved, and we hope that this is a living, breathing example that what works for ākonga Māori and Pasifika also works for non-Māori - something that we hope to see replicated across the rohe,” says Ms McKenzie.

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