Lifting course completion rates for Maori is the theme of a national conference which opened at WIT today.
Kaitakawaenga – Maori liaison staff – from polytechs and universities – are spending three days in Taranaki discussing that issue and others at their annual conference.
The organiser is WITT’s Kaitakawaenga Allana Prestney who says tertiary education providers are faced with a double edged sword when it comes to lifting success rates.
“Part of my work is advocating tutor-student relationships are solid and that involves getting over cultural hurdles. What is respectful behaviour in one cultural can be disrespectful in another – something as simple as looking someone in the eyes,” she said.
A significant percentage of Maori and Pasifika students arrived as “high risk” she said.
“Many have significant historical issues. They may be recovering from a period of drug dependency, they may have been referred to us by another agency such as alternate education providers and WINZ – and many are ill-prepared for the course they want to study because they don’t have the required credits to align with course selection.’’
She said that was a combined recipe for failure for many students. If they were unable to communicate well with tutors or struggled because of personal issues or learning levels and received no help, they were destined to fail.
WITT’s own success rate with Maori students was listed as a point of concern in a recent NZQA review of the institute.
Allana Prestney said one key to lifting success rates was doing more work ahead of enrolling students. She said that work was underway at WITT and a significant difference this year had been a higher than usual course withdrawal rates in the first few weeks for all students.
“It is far better they withdraw now and find an appropriate course where they can achieve goals rather than waste away in class for an entire course – but the challenge for us is to continue improving our vetting right at the start.
“I think the attention paid in that area has been positive and it will surprise me if we don’t see a rise in course completion rates here this year.”
The full theme title of the conference is “Sharing Best Practice – improve success and completion rates for Maori.”
Representatives from Tui Ora and Parininihi ki Waitotara will also speak at the conference, along with WITT staff who will share their expertise.
Institutes represented will include Waikato, Auckland, Lincoln, Massey and Otago Universities, AUT, MIT, Te Wananga o Aotearoa and the Eastern Institute of Technology.
Picture: WITT’s Ken Taiapa greets Waikato University’s Tahangawari Tangitu-Huata at this morning’s powhiri.