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There is much talk in the tertiary sector about foundation, under-served and developmental students. Collectively, they are described as priority learners and comprise approximately 100,000 learners in the New Zealand tertiary education system who are enrolled in a programme designed to lead to further educational or better employment activities. This includes:

  • level 1-3 programmes
  • targeted training programmes
  • level 4 bridging programmes.

Why priority learners?

So, what does this mean? And why focus on priority learners? Data shows that a large proportion of this group are aged 40+ and currently hold either School Certificate (or NCEA level 1) or no qualifications at all.  There is also a large proportion of Māori and Pasifika students represented in these figures. Ensuring that this part of our tertiary system works well will ultimately have flow on effects for the rest of the sector, but in particular, focusing on priority learners can enable:

  • improved outcomes from Level 1-3
  • more Māori and Pasifika enjoying success at higher levels
  • more young people moving successfully from school into tertiary education
  • more young people achieving qualifications at levels 4 and above.

What is being done?

During the past week, two expert forums have been held as part of the Ako Aotearoa Increasing educational attainment for TES priority learners project. There is a three-fold approach to this project, which focuses on teaching and learning practice ‘in context’ and aims to:

  • understand where our system is working well and where there seem to be issues
  • identify and promote examples of good practice
  • provide recommendations as to how our system can better suit the needs of priority learners, and targets we should be striving to reach.

Educators can find out more about the project by reading the background information and discussion papers available here. In time, educators will have the opportunity to contribute to online discussions in the priority learners area.

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