You have probably heard it said before that school is not for everybody.
You have also probably heard it said before that education is a powerful tool that provides a pathway to a world of opportunity.
Simply speaking, combining these two ideas has resulted in the provision of alternative education programmes.
Thanks to Coast Youth Community Trust (CYC), there is an ‘alt-ed’ programme called Forward with Direction (FWD) that runs locally based at Whangaparāoa Baptist Church (HM February 1, 2017). It is free for students to attend and supports those who have had difficulty working within the traditional education system.
Earlier on in the year I received the opportunity to ‘go back to school’ and work as an alternative education tutor on the FWD programme.
FWD is a learning hub where students who are not involved with traditional school can still complete NCEA Levels 1 and 2. The year is filled with a fun and practical curriculum, a smaller class size and shorter days to cater for young people who are working or have other commitments.
Thanks to the FWD programme, young people who don’t fit into the mainstream education system, who may have been asked to leave school or who are dealing with personal issues, have another shot at gaining NCEA qualifications.
The students engage with very practical topics such as learning budgeting skills, how to create a CV and cover letter, developing career and life goals and encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset with assignments focused on creating a ‘business.’
This caring, nurturing and safe environment has provided a second chance for over 100 students to gain NCEA qualifications since being established on the Coast. Subsequently, this open, embracing and practical education option has changed the future prospects for many local young people and helped them find the pathway to achieving their goals and dreams.
To this end, I have gained newfound appreciation for the unsung heroes in our community – the teachers who are working on the frontlines supporting young people every day in the classroom.
This influence extends beyond the four walls of the classroom and leaves its mark for years to come. Reflecting back on my school years, I would acknowledge that my teachers played an instrumental role in inspiring, encouraging and opening my eyes to a world of possibility.
So yes, school may not be the best fit for everybody. But locally, we are privileged to have a number of good schools as well as alternative modes of learning that are accessible for those who don’t fit into the traditional educational system – a course which helps young people develop the tools to be work ready but also provides the option to explore additional avenues of study.
And yes, education is a powerful tool for opportunity, but not just for future employment prospects. Education is a tool for building teacher-student relationships that inspire, encourage and invoke self-belief that remains with students’ long term.