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Policy and Legal Framework 4.3

Part 4 - THE POLICY AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR USING THE CODE OF PRACTICE

4.3 The Policy Framework for Using the Code of Practice

In the last couple of decades disability issues have advanced from discussions on ramps and assistive technology to a more sophisticated rights-based examination of legislative and policy imperatives.[23] Disability issues are gaining more recognition in high-level policy documents in New Zealand. These documents are relevant to all tertiary institutions and this section will provide a framework for meeting policy and legislative obligations.

1. The New Zealand Disability Strategy Whakanui Oranga 2001[24]

This strategy, released in 2001, is the first government document that explicitly identifies barriers to participation and achievement for people with impairments. It contains objectives and actions that are relevant to all tertiary education providers.

Objective 3:
Provide the best education for people with impairments.

Action:
3.8 - Improve post-compulsory education options for people with impairments, including: promoting best practice, providing career guidance, increasing lifelong opportunities for learning and better aligning financial support with education opportunities.

Objective 4:
Provide opportunities in employment and economic development for people with impairments.

Action:
4.1 - Provide education and training opportunities to increase the individual capacity of people with impairments to move into employment.

Objective 6:
Foster an aware and responsive Public Service.

Action:
6.1 - Develop mechanisms to ensure that all government policy and legislation is consistent with the objectives of the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

Objective 13:
Enable children with impairments and youth to lead full and active lives.

Action:
13.6 - Improve support for children with impairments and youth during transition from early childhood education, primary and secondary school, tertiary education and employment.

 

2. The Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Strategy 2002-07 [25], [26]

The Tertiary Education Strategy recognises that one of the factors New Zealand's economic growth and improved social outcomes depends on is equal access and equal opportunities for all learners. People with impairments are educationally disadvantaged and are a significant equity target group. The Tertiary Education Strategy directly contributes to the government's broad national, economic and social goals. It provides a new direction and policy framework for tertiary education and will guide the activities of government tertiary education agencies.

The direction of tertiary education for the next five years is based around six strategies to enhance sector performance. Each of the six strategies has specific objectives. These include specific references to inclusive practices and the provision of services for students with impairments that tertiary institutions need to be aware of and plan towards. The Code of Practice provides a framework for this.

The early sections of the document provide the context for the strategy and outline the role of tertiary education. It states:

"Social change also requires a heightened focus on access to education and implies the remediation of the current digital divide and other barriers to inclusion".

This implies that tertiary institutions will need to focus on access to education and overcoming barriers to inclusion. The new tertiary education environment 'critical success factors' for tertiary institutions will also include areas that relate to students with impairments. These success factors relate to:

Strategy One:
Strengthen systems capability and quality. They include "having staff who are making innovative use of new learning technologies and demonstrate and embrace new technology modes that recognize different styles of learning."

Other key references to students with impairments include:

Strategy Three:
Raise foundation skills so that all people can participate in our knowledge society.

Objective 15: Clearer accountability for quality and outcomes within foundation education, including a greater focus on assessment.

The vision for this strategy and objective states that by 2007:

We will have achieved improvements in the number and diversity of learners accessing and succeeding in obtaining foundation skills through tertiary education, particularly amongst priority groups with lower literacy levels, including learners with impairments.
Foundation skills providers will be of high quality and their programmes will be targeted to priority learner groups, including people with impairments.
Strategy Four:

Develop the skills New Zealanders need for our knowledge society.

Objective 20: Equity of access and opportunities for all learners.

The vision for this strategy and objective states that by 2007:

  • People from lower income situations and others who have traditionally faced barriers to participation and achievement in tertiary education, including people with impairments, will also be achieving skills and qualification in greater numbers.

Objective 21: Learners are equipped to make informed choices about career and learning options.

The vision for this strategy and objective states that by 2007:

  • Information and advice about the employment opportunities and experiences of specific groups, including people with impairments, will be readily available.
    Objective 5 also aims to create "a stronger system focus on teaching capability and learning environments to meet diverse learner needs." By 2007 it is hoped there will be "increased responsiveness to the needs of and wider access for learners", including people with impairments.

As part of the implementation for the Tertiary Education Strategy, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC):

  1. Has developed the 'Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities' (STEP). The Interim STEP for 2002/03 required tertiary institutions to understand the key changes in the strategy and to begin incorporating them into internal planning. Given the references to inclusive practices and the provision of services for students with impairments, planning should cover these areas.
  2. Has introduced a system of 'Charters and Profiles' to increase clarity around the nature and purpose of tertiary provision delivered by tertiary education organisations. All providers need to demonstrate their contributions to achieving the Tertiary Education Strategy. They must first identify the education and development needs and aspirations of their communities, including people with impairments. Guidelines for these Charters and Profiles have been developed which cover the provision of an inclusive environment and outcomes for students with impairments.
    As part of their Charter, tertiary institutions were asked to indicate how the organisation goes about ensuring that its educational activities are meeting the needs of learners - factors that encourage learner success and achievement.

As part of their Profile, tertiary providers are required to provide evidence of:

  • Performance targets and indicators in relation to educational activities, learner outcomes and meeting the needs of under-represented groups.
  • Plans and objectives for improving equity of access and achievement.
  • Partnerships with relevant community organisations to identify and meet learner needs to lower barriers to participation and achievement.