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UCOL Wairarapa closing completion gap

UCOL Te Pūkenga Wairarapa is celebrating a significant increase in course completion rates of ākonga Māori [Māori learners].

A recent RNZ report showed that university completion rates have dropped nationally, with larger drops for ākonga Māori and Pasifika.

But UCOL Wairarapa has bucked the nationwide trend and started to close the completion rate gap between ākonga Māori and non-Māori with an improvement of 18.17 per cent over the past three years.

Statistics from 2019 showed an 18.83 per cent gap in completion rates between ākonga Māori and non-Māori. This had reduced to 0.66 per cent as of 2022.

Campus director UCOL Wairarapa Carrie McKenzie attributes UCOL’s success to a focus on a more welcoming, inclusive, and culturally aware learning environment.

McKenzie said the presence of a strong leadership team, committed and skilled kaimahi [staff], and the new integration of a relationship-based teaching practice called Te Atakura has also contributed greatly to the improvements in completion rates.

“Te Atakura involves us coaching our kaimahi on ways we can create a better learning environment for ākonga Māori and Pasifika,” she said.

The culturally responsive teaching approach that focuses on a strong learning relationship between kaimahi and ākonga is not reserved for Māori and Pasifika students.

McKenzie said that it “works for non-Māori too. This way, everyone benefits”.

UCOL’s Pouahurea [cultural competency advisor] provides te reo Māori lessons to 85 per cent of the kaimahi.

McKenzie said they have also increased the use of te reo Māori and the ratio of Māori and Pasifika kaimahi to reflect better the ākonga they teach.

“In our Wairarapa campus, the tutor knows your name, your whakapapa, whether you’re in class or not, any barriers to learning, and how we can support that.

“We’re helping our ākonga to be more connected and ultimately more engaged in the classroom,” she said.

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