New initiative aims to improve Māori and Pacific outcomes at university

May 29, 2024

New initiative aims to improve Māori and Pacific outcomes at university

Auckland University is collaborating with secondary schools to help Māori and Pacific students overcome barriers to achieving university entrance. Photo: Ryan Bos

Falling University Entrance rates among young Māori and Pacific students has triggered a new initiative which is the first such collaboration between schools and a university in New Zealand.

It has been launched by Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, to achieve parity for Māori and Pacific students says Liletina Vaka, associate director schools and community engagement (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Kāi Tahu, Tonga).

One of the major barriers Māori and Pacific students face in achieving university entrance is a lack of preparedness due to inequities withing the education sectors, says Vaka.

“This is really a long-term thing, although it’s quite acute now. So immediately, what we’re seeing in the last little while has become far more acute in terms of what we’re facing.”

The initiative aims to address the factors that lead to student’s unpreparedness.

A lack of external credits and not choosing the right papers have been identified as causing lower university entrance rates.

“There is a really strong relationship when it comes to external credit attainment in secondary school to how you achieve at university.”

“Really this is about achieving parity, so we want Māori and Pacific to go into high school and thrive at high school and to do equal to their peers at a mass level.”

Māori and Pacific university entrance rates fell from 40 percent in 2020 to 34 percent in 2022, which is more than the national average which fell from 53 percent to 50 percent in the same period.

“There are other things, in terms of inequities across our society of a whole range of things that mean our Māori and pacific students in particular are most disadvantaged when it comes to trying to achieve UE as a qualification.”

Māori involvement is key to improving educational outcomes, says Damon Rita, deputy national co-ordinator and iwi liaison at the Māori Achievement Collaborative (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāruahine, Ngāti Ruanui, Te Ātiawa ki Te Tauihu o te Waka, Ngāti Rārua Ātiawa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Mutunga).

“We will never get to equity until such time that we are at the decision table making those right decisions for our people.”

The initiative is the first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand and involves collaborating with secondary schools across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

“What this initiative does is partner with schools which I haven’t seen across the tertiary sector being able to have a multi stakeholder formal partnership like this” says Vaka.

Rita says that collaboration is central to Māori success in education and university.

“We find success together, and what that kaupapa (approach) talks to is whanaungatanga (relationship). It’s about those strong relationships that we have with each other.”

The initiative will roll out over the next six years and has the potential to impact outcomes for future students and society, says Vaka.

“Some longer terms things are the impact across our labour market and society if we can get more Māori and Pacific young people through high education”.

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