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Learning Choices covers the broad spectrum of inclusive and flexible learning programs for young people disenfranchised from the conventional schooling system. These initiatives offer vital pathways to enable young people to remain in learning and connect with further education, training and employment.
They also play an integral part in enabling Australian State and Territory governments to meet their COAG commitment under the National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions to raise the Year 12 attainment rate to 90% by 2015. With only three years left to achieve this goal, now is a critical time to understand what works in keeping our young people engaged in learning.
Associate Professor Kitty te Riele has analysed data on 400 programs with 33,000 young people enrolled in 1200 locations across Australia (based on the national survey of programs undertaken by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum in 2011 available at dusseldorp.org.au).
In addition, the report draws on an in-depth analysis of reports and information from 33 specific programs as well as existing research publications about enabling all young people to complete their education (see the annotated bibliography of selected relevant research publications and a comprehensive listing of current and recent research projects in this field).
The report shows that many young people around Australia are benefiting significantly from the provision of innovative and flexible learning programs. However, the report also indicates that more data is needed on outcomes.
Most Learning Choices programs offer accredited course options and many use practical, creative and applied learning, individual learning plans and integrated/project approaches.
Lack of adequate funding was found to be a major barrier to the quality and sustainability of programs. Across Australia, there are more than 4000 young people currently on waiting lists for Learning Choices programs.
High staff/student ratios were found and this contributes to the programs’ success as it enables the building of positive relationships between students and staff, which is critical. Professional development was identified as a priority.
The report also identifies major gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed through further research.
Learning Choices – A Map for the Future provides a useful snapshot of each State and Territory and their approach to fulfilling the COAG agreement. It is an essential tool for educators, researchers and policy makers to further develop innovative and inclusive learning opportunities to meet these goals and the needs of Australia’s young people.