Te Pūkenga Executive adopts partnership framework developed by learners
March 1, 2022 | 3 min read
Te Pūkenga Executive approved the adoption of ‘Whiria Ngā Rau – Progressing from student voice to partnerships’ as its formal position on how best to ensure learners are not a voice lost in the background but treated as partners in their learning and able to take part in decision-making.
Whiria Ngā Rau was formally launched at the Student Voice Summit on 19 November 2021, with a presentation to the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, and was extremely well-received. The document, created by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), Te Mana Ākonga (TMĀ), Tauira Pasifika (TP) and the National Disabled Students’ Association (NDSA) with the support of the Ministry of Education was conceived as a gift from learners to the tertiary education sector. It contains ideas, challenges, and thoughts on how to embody student partnership and create a truly learner-centric education system. An elegant four ‘rau’, (leaf) framework focuses on strengthening learners’ voices, building connections with each other, learning from and with each other, and working together.
Te Pūkenga is mandated to put learners with whānau are at the centre of what the organisation does, as well as apply Te Tiriti and seek equitable outcomes for all learners, which means a fresh approach to many aspects of the education system.
“A traditional approach has been to develop a programme or service based on what we think will work best, and expect that it will meet the need,” explains Debbie Preston, Learner Innovation Manager. “But often when we do this, what we develop is not built in a way to best meet the needs of the people we want to serve. What we’re going to do is flip this right around – first we’ll gain an understanding of what people need and want, then we will co-design it with the people we’re serving.”
Recently re-elected NZUSA National President Andrew Lessells agrees that in the past, the system has not always been good at incorporating the ideas and needs of learners. “While we know that students aren’t always heard effectively, there is a real desire in the sector to genuinely and authentically partner with them. What is lacking is the knowledge of how to embed this and we created Whiria Ngā Rau to build this capability.”
He says of the wholesale adoption of Whiria Ngā Rau as policy by Te Pūkenga is a sign that the new vocational education system values, and has confidence in, the country’s student leadership. “Te Pūkenga’s adoption of Whiria Ngā Rau underscores their genuine commitment to ‘ākonga at the centre’ and their place as the first institution to formally embed this should be celebrated. Genuine student partnership will be required to achieve the expectations of the Te Pūkenga Charter and adopting a student-designed framework is a fantastic signal to learners that their voices are needed if Te Pūkenga is to be a success.”