'Change in education is needed'

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 15:05 30/01/2013

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Regional areas such as Marlborough can lead the way in New Zealand by changing the education system to meet the needs of every student, says a New Zealand educationalist.

The driver behind New Zealand's first tertiary high school visited Marlborough yesterday to talk at Marlborough Girls' College on education and young people. Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) director of external relations Stuart Middleton said teaching needed to be culturally inclusive.

The vocationally focused tertiary high school in Manukau, Auckland, allows students looking to drop out of high school at year 11 to study at high school level while gaining career skills at a tertiary level. Two-thirds of its students are Maori and Pacific Islanders.

"If we carry on doing the same thing in our education system, we will end up getting the same results," Dr Middleton said. The "results" were the 20 per cent of students who left school before they were 16, the 29,000 students who were absent at least once every week, the 7500 students who skipped school three days a week, and the 71 per cent of New Zealanders who did not get post-secondary school education.

The number of disengaged youth would continue to grow if something did not change, he said.

"We need to be better at dealing with students who are not succeeding."

Poorer students were not given the tools to achieve.

"An early school leaver is a young person at risk," Dr Middleton said. "They have very few opportunities available. They end up in the youth justice system and become benefit dependent."

In order to stop this process of disengagement, education needed to focus on vocational pathways and develop career education.

Students at MIT were able to see the outcome of their learning and had a purpose, he said.

The school has an 85 per cent success rate, high considering the students were intending to drop out.

Marlborough had the potential to change the education system to deal with students who were not succeeding, Dr Middleton said. He suggested a group of people with a clear purpose get together and identify the area that could be impacted the most.

"Start small and grow great," he said. "It's as easy as that and exactly where the future has to go."

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- The Marlborough Express

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