Breaking barriers to alternative education

A new website makes accessing alternative education easier than ever.

The newly-launched Learning Choices website contains information on more than 800 alternative secondary education programs nationally. Each is featured on a map and includes details on the program, levels taught and qualifications offered.

Victoria University researcher Associate Professor Kitty te Riele said it was the first time this information had been pulled together in such an accessible way to empower young people.

"Young people who don't find normal mainstream high school very engaging or helpful deserve to know what alternatives there are in their local area," Associate Professor te Riele said. "Before this there was no easily accessible way for them to find that information meaning efforts to engage with education may have been stifled."

The education programs listed include:

  • Separate alternative schools (such as the St Kilda Youth Service 2FAZE, Melbourne, and EREA Youth+ Albert Park Flexible Learning Centre, Brisbane) and annexes (such as the Glebe Pathways program, Sydney, and the Canberra College Cares program),
  • Innovative programs that work with mainstream schools (such as Beacon, Hands on Learning, Clontarf Foundation and Big Picture), and
  • Flexible Year 10 or 12 equivalent programs in TAFE and Community Colleges (such as the Certificate in General Education for Adults). 

"While the ideal would be for all schools to cater for all children, the reality is that not all students learn the same way and many young people's needs are only met in these alternative schools," she said.

It is also hoped the site will create more of a network among alternative education providers.

"For too long many of these alternative education programs have been working in isolation without support from each other and in many cases trying to re-invent the wheel," she said.

"Even those outside of alternative education would do well to see what is on offer and learn more about the important part these programs play in our education system. Those in mainstream schools may even learn some lessons on engagement."

The 'Putting the Jigsaw Together' project is funded by the Ian Potter Foundation and forms part of Associate Professor te Riele's ongoing research at the university's Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity & Lifelong Learning into what makes effective alternative education programs. With the support of Dusseldorp Skills Forum, findings from the research are communicated through the Learning Choices website.

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