Not Just a Dream - Aboriginal student pathways to higher level

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  • Not just a dream

    Aboriginal student pathways to higher level qualifications in TAFE NSW

  • ii | WWW.BVET.NSW.GOV.AU NSW BOARD OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

    Preliminary

    Acknowledgements

    The research team acknowledges the invaluable input from:

    TAFE NSW Aboriginal studentswhose stories and reflections add the fish around the bones of the data gathered for this study

    the Board of Vocational Education and Training (BVET)which has funded and supported this study

    the project reference groupwhose members have guided the projects progress through its stages

    Department of Education and Communities (DEC) and TAFE NSW Aboriginal managers and stafffor their key role in gathering and confirming student data, sharing their stories and their generous input throughout project.

    Cover and internal artwork by Connie Ah See.

    Connie is a proud descendant of the Wirrum Wirrum people of the Wiradjuri Nation of the Wellington valley NSW: formerly Bindjung. She is also a head teacher at TAFE NSWWestern Institutes Yarradamarra Arts Centre in Dubbo.

    About the artwork

    The artwork illustrates the journey Aboriginal peoples and non-Aboriginal peoples take together to help Aboriginal students achieve their Dreams.

    The circle in the middle depicts the education centres in which they work. The crossed lines show Aboriginal communities accessing those centres from across NSW.

    Publishing details

    Compiled by TAFE NSW Level 2, 35 Bridge Street Sydney NSW 2000

    Copies of this report can be downloaded from the NSW Board of Vocational Education and Training website at: http://www.bvet.nsw.gov.au/

    Printed by TAFE NSWSydney Institute, High Volume Print Cell

    NSW Department of Education and CommunitiesMay 2013

    http://www.bvet.nsw.gov.au/http://www.bvet.nsw.gov.au/

  • NSW BOARD OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING WWW.BVET.NSW.GOV.AU | iii

    This course, and the TAFE location, and people I met

    (including the teachers) were pivotal to me gaining employment,

    learning about life in general and growing as an individual

    It allowed me to dream on a whole other level.

    TAFE NSW student response,

    BVET Aboriginal pathways research project

  • iv | WWW.BVET.NSW.GOV.AU NSW BOARD OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

    Preliminary

    Key cultural terminology

    Definitions

    Aboriginal

    In this report the word Aboriginal refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW.

    Indigenous

    In this report the word Indigenous refers to the First Peoples of the World.

    Community

    In this report the word Community refers to Aboriginal communities across NSW.

    Elders

    In this report the word Elder follows the traditional meaning. The traditional meaning of an Aboriginal Elder is someone who has gained recognition within their community as a custodian of knowledge or lore, and who has permission to disclose cultural knowledge and beliefs. Recognised Elders are highly respected people within Aboriginal communities. In some instances, Aboriginal people above a certain age will refer to themselves as Elders. However, it is important to understand that in traditional Aboriginal culture, age alone does not necessarily mean that one is a recognised Elder.

    Limitations of the study

    It should be noted that the project does not provide a complete picture of VET outcomes for Aboriginal students.

    Firstly, it is limited to student experience within TAFE NSW and does not include vocational education and training undertaken with other registered training organisations (RTOs).

    Secondly, it is limited to students who self-identified as Aboriginal on enrolment.

    http://www.bvet.nsw.gov.au/

  • NSW BOARD OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING WWW.BVET.NSW.GOV.AU | v

    Table of contents

    Preliminary

    Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................. ii Key cultural terminology ......................................................................................................... iv Limitations of the study .......................................................................................................... iv

    Section 1: Key messages

    This section provides a short summary of key messages and recommendations from the study.

    Recommendations .................................................................................................................. 2 Key features of success for Aboriginal student pathways ........................................................ 4

    Section 2: Introduction

    This section gives a brief outline of the policy context since 2005 with implications for the study.

    About the research ...................................................................................................................5 Policy context: 2005 to now .................................................................................................... 6 Evidence of improvement in outcomes for Aboriginal students ............................................... 8

    Section 3: What we have learned from other projects

    This section provides a summary of related current research, particularly TAFE NSW projects which inform the study. Only projects which specifically focus on VET pathways and completions of Aboriginal students in TAFE NSW have been included rather than a full review relating to current Aboriginal education research.

    Focus on qualification completions ......................................................................................... 9 Pre-vocational programs ........................................................................................................ 10 Improving Aboriginal student outcomes ................................................................................ 10

    Section 4: Research methodology

    This section outlines the research methodology for all stages of the study.

    Stage 1Analysis of student data .......................................................................................... 13 Stage 2Individual student interviews ................................................................................... 15 Stage 3Focus groups: Aboriginal support staff .................................................................... 16

    Section 5: Overview of Aboriginal student outcomes (20052010)

    This section provides overall analysis from the enrolment and completions data based on the initial cohort of 3,014 Aboriginal students (1524 years) who enrolled in TAFE NSW for the first time in 2005.

    Summary of initial enrolments by Aboriginal students in 2005 by cohort ............................... 17 Summary of qualification completions for Aboriginal students (20052010) .......................... 18

    Section 6: Enrolment and completion outcomes for specific cohorts of Aboriginal students: 20052010

    This section provides detailed analysis of enrolments and completions 20052010 of students from the initial cohort of 3,014 Aboriginal students (1524 years) based on their course of first enrolment.

  • vi | WWW.BVET.NSW.GOV.AU NSW BOARD OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

    Section 7: What worked for successful Aboriginal students

    This section provides analysis of data from interviews with successful students who completed an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Certificate III level qualification or above during the six years of the study. It also includes reflections by Aboriginal support staff gathered in focus groups.

    Data have been organised into key themes and each theme concludes with a summary. The diagram included in Appendix 2 summarises key research themes. Quotes included in this section were gathered during individual student interviews and do not identify the students or their location. Where quotes are from focus groups of Aboriginal support staff, this is indicated.

    Student snapshots are included under relevant themes. Where individual students are identified, they have given permission for publication of their pathway stories.

    7.1 Student expectations and motivation ............................................................................... 32 7.2 The learning experience .................................................................................................... 36 7.3 Support services............................................................................................................... 40 7.4 Employment ....................................................................................................................45

    Section 8: Student pathways

    This section includes a summary of pathways taken by successful students who completed a qualification at AQF Certificate III level and above.

    Diverse range of enrolments by students who completed courses .......................................... 51 Courses with the highest number of completions ................................................................... 52 Analysis of student pathways ................................................................................................. 52

    Section 9: Recommendations

    This section includes a short discussion of the key themes, conclusions and recommendations emerging from all stages of the study, including suggestions for future targeted research.

    Improving Aboriginal VET programs ...................................................................................... 63 Financial support and/or incentives ....................................................................................... 64 Further investigation ............................................................................................................. 64

    References

    List of references used ...........................................................................................................65 List of figures ......................................................................................................................... 67 List of tables.......................................................................................................................... 68

    Appendices

    Appendix 1: Project team ...................................................................................................... 69 Appendix 2: Research instruments ......................................................................................... 70

    http://www.bvet.nsw.gov.au/

  • NSW BOARD OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING WWW.BVET.NSW.GOV.AU | 1

    Section 1: Key messages

    This study reveals rich information on individual Aboriginal student success. However, it also demonstrates that further work is required to close the gap between the education and training outcomes of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

    There is pressure nationally to build a population with higher level skills and more employment resilience to cope with the changing nature of work. This means that any successes in Aboriginal education must be viewed through the prism of overall educational attainment for Australians. The challenge for training organisations is to continually review and improve practice, to test strategies, to learn through mistakes and to innovate.

    This report tells the story and journey of a group of 1524 year old Aboriginal students who enrolled in TAFE NSW for the first time in 2005. It traces their course enrolments and completions over the six year period 20052010 to determine how many achieved an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Certificate III level qualification or abovethe studys measure of success.

    The study confirms that selecting the most appropriate starting point in a vocational education and training (VET) pathway is critical. Conversations need to be held regularly with schools, TAFE NSW Institutes, other VET providers, universities, employment service providers and communities to ensure the necessary education, training, support services and employment opportunities are in place to assist Aboriginal students.

    The study suggests there is no specific pathway that is more effective than another in determining individual Aboriginal students success.

    Successful students interviewed for the study followed varied pathways to reach their employment goals, although these could generally be categorised into two types of pathway groups:

    planned, linear pathways; or pathways that appeared to be exploratory, with students trying

    out different courses and changing career paths mid-way.

    Regardless of the pathway taken, a number of successful Aboriginal students who started in a lower AQF level course, either as an orientation to TAFE and vocational study, or to consolidate their foundation skills, progressed to and completed a higher AQF level qualification over the six years of the study.

    For many of these Aboriginal students, an apprenticeship was their preferred outcome. They wanted a practical hands-on course with links to employment.

    Ultimately, students want training to deliver jobs

  • 2 | WWW.BVET.NSW.GOV.AU NSW BOARD OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

    Factors contributing to success identified by successful students, regardless of the pathway taken, included:

    enrolment in courses where students were engaged and genuinely interested

    the degree of fit with the learning environment the support and encouragement provided by teachers and other staff opportunities to gain on-the-job experience, which helped

    students to appreciate the real-world value of their study and transition to real work.

    Students also identified barriers they faced. Issues such as the cost and lack of transport or travelling long distances, financial difficulties, personal issues and a lack of self-esteem and confidence in their academic ability impacted negatively on students.

    Barriers specific to students Aboriginality included a perceived lack of Aboriginal-specific support or a low level of awareness that specific support services were available. It is important to provide a culturally safe environment that recognises the cultural diversity of all Aboriginal students.

    Students ultimately wanted training to deliver jobs. This suggests additional work is needed on career planning to complete pathways for students, as well as more emphasis on collaboration between TAFE NSW, job service providers and employers.

    Recommendations from this study are not necessarily new, however they are practical and, in combination, could be applicable to all training organisations.

    They are a useful reminder that barriers to Aboriginal student success have still not been overcome. The challenge for training organisations such as TAFE NSW is to identify and implement strategies to overcome barriers and continuously evaluate their effectiveness in consultation with individuals and communities.

    Recommendations

    The recommendations fall under the following themes:

    Improving Aboriginal VET programs

    1. The repo...

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