Te whai i ngā taumata atakura: supporting Māori achievement in bachelors degrees Publications
This study looks at what matters for the success of first-time Māori students studying towards bachelors degrees. The purpose of this study is to build understanding about how to increase the number of Māori attaining bachelors degrees or higher.
Author(s): David Earle, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis, Ministry of Education.
Date Published: June 2007
There is clear evidence that holding a degree benefits Māori economically, as well as having social and cultural benefits. However, while the level of Māori degree attainment has increased, it still lags behind the rest of the New Zealand population and international standards.
Young Māori continue to be underrepresented in degree participation, while many Māori have entered degree studies as adults. The number of Māori going into degree studies from school is increasing, in line with the increased number of Māori school leavers attaining university entrance or higher. The number of Māori entering degree studies as adults is decreasing, as opportunities in the workforce increase due to the tight labour market.
The study found that In order to make a step change in the number of Māori attaining degrees, the most important change would be to increase the number of Māori secondary school students achieving university entrance or better. This remains the major constraint on success. It limits the number of younger Māori who can enter degree studies. It is also an important factor for success where Māori students have entered degree studies later in life.
For both younger and older students, this study reinforces the importance of the first-year experience, especially during the first semester. Support for first-year Māori students within degrees is important to ensure those who enter degree study succeed to the best of their abilities.
A major finding of the study is that success during the first year of study is only partially explained by the kinds of variables captured in enrolment data – that is, demographics, school background and area of enrolment. This reinforces a general theme throughout the international literature that there is a complex set of factors, institutional, personal and external, which influence student success. These include readiness for degree study, goal commitment, ability of the student to fit into the institution and ability of the institution to adapt to the student.
Many of these wider factors are amenable to influence through student support services, improved institutional practice and teacher professional development. A key aspect for Māori students is likely to be the extent to which Māori students are able to maintain their cultural identity, access social and support networks outside of the institution and feel that their experiences are valued within the context of their learning.
The study confirms that first-year success is a critical factor for retention and completion of students. Passing 75 percent or more of first-year courses is an important determinant of remaining in study beyond the first year. There is also evidence that some students quit degree study having failed a number of first-semester courses. Passing 75 percent or more of all degree courses taken is a critical factor for completing a degree.