Closing the education equity gap will be a challenge for many
OPINION: Data on the annual performance of the university where I work, like most educational institutions in this country, shows significant persistent gaps in the retention and success rates of Maori, Pasifika and low-income students. income.
Recognizing and closing this gap has been a key strategy of the Higher Education Commission (TEC) and individual institutions for years, and yet last month the TEC confirmed that the hundreds of initiatives rolled out to date have had little to no impact on the dial change, calling them well-intentioned distractions from needed systemic approaches.
The equity gap is a 17 percent difference in the graduation rates of Maori and Pacific students in six years, compared to other groups. In some programs, the gap is much, much wider. TEC argues that systemic change is needed and has piloted a learner success system, called Åritetanga, in some institutions.
Essential elements of Åritetanga are strong leadership and relationships with key partners, learner-centered systems and processes, clear pathways that tell learners what they need to achieve a qualification and where it will take them, and good data systems that can track and support learner success.
* Big success for the Ara Institute of Canterbury – except with its Maori and Pasifika students
* Whanau retains Maori and Pacific students – training provider
* Maori and Pasifika NCEA pass rates have improved, but disparity persists at university
These approaches have been successfully implemented elsewhere. Over the past decade, Georgia State University has implemented a similar system, increasing overall graduation rates by 23% and closing the gaps for black, Hispanic, first-generation, and low-income students.
The GSU approach focuses on personalized attention, even at a large public university. The key to this is using predictive analytics to track 800 different risk factors that could derail student success, such as failing a test, missing a deadline, or not. -payment of fees. If a risk factor is triggered, an alert is sent to advisers, who must contact them within 48 hours to inquire and provide support and advice.
Interventions are deliberately targeted early so that, for example, a grade that will not allow progression down a certain path (such as entering law or medicine) can be addressed, or the path diverted to an alternative program. Another aspect of the GSU program is funding scholarships for students who may struggle to complete due to financial hardship, rather than the traditional strategy of focusing financial aid on freshmen – who do not have a history of success in higher education.
Information for students is available through a chatbot that answers frequently asked questions, which experiences high usage outside of office hours, and among equity groups, which prefer not to expose their lack of knowledge to human staff. . Overall, the program is not only ethically appropriate in terms of social justice, it is financially prudent and saves millions of dollars per year. GSU Vice President Tim Renick says the changes prove “demographics are not fate”.
These lessons give us food for thought at Aotearoa and underpin calls for transformational change in the tertiary sector. The additional ingredient missing from the GSU approach is the cultural dimension and the use of the strengths and advantages arising from the identity of the learners of the âequity groupâ.
In New Zealand, this means a true Tiriti partnership with the Maori and the recognition of the values, needs and aspirations of the peoples of the Pacific. Closing the gap is not just about closing the gaps in social and economic capital; it also requires recalibrating teaching and learning approaches, facilities and staff to reflect the preferences, needs and aspirations of all learners.
This will inevitably be a challenge for many, especially for those who have willingly relied on the âwell-meaning distractionsâ of special admission programs, extra classes, counselors and staff, and dedicated spaces. A generation of these piecemeal efforts has proven that they weren’t enough, and we must embark on a journey of what my friend Professor Tracey McIntosh calls âproductive discomfortâ – having difficult conversations and having difficult conversations. tough calls to achieve our Tiriti and social goals. justice in higher education.
This often means criticizing good people working in bad systems. Martin Luther King Jr wrote of the difficulties of challenging moderate progressives in 1963, when he observed that “the superficial understanding of people of good will is more frustrating than outright misunderstanding on the part of people of ill will.”
Educator Robin DiAngelo would simply call what we have done over the past two decades “beautiful racism”. Institutions have opened the doors to equity groups, but have done little to provide effective and lasting support for their retention and success, recognizing the credit of students who manage to overcome their disadvantages, often with support from staff working beyond their recognized roles and budgets.
The advantage of moving from the individual and interpersonal to the institutional is that it places responsibility for change at the top – so that the burden of advancing equity goals does not rest on a few staff members. dedicated, or on the students themselves to navigate their path to success.
However, obtaining a degree is not an end in itself. For Harvard economist Raj Chetty, the main indicator of a higher education institution’s success is not the graduation rate, but social mobility. Social mobility changes the lives of graduates, their families and communities, due to increased incomes and expectations.
Chetty’s research analyzes tax data from the point of entry into an institution up to 15 years after graduation, to prove that lasting change is possible through education. Its approach to big data focuses on identifying what drives opportunity and what inhibits it.
This has a synergy with the GSU and Åritetanga program. Transformational change requires special attention, and more than a written report prefaced with a whakataukÄ« or overused proverb.
Khylee Quince is Dean of Law at Auckland University of Technology.