The Victoria Institute

Putting the jigsaw together: innovative learning engagement programs in Australia

This project explores 'alternative' education options for young people in Innovative Learning Engagement or flexible learning programs. 

In the past few decades a wide variety of 'alternative' educational programs have been developed in Australia aimed at re‐engaging young people with education. The programs include:

  • In‐school programs (pulling students out of the regular classroom for a limited time)
  • Separate alternative schools (mostly independent) that offer Year 9, 10, 11 and/or 12 education
  • Programs offering general education within TAFE or community colleges.

Unfortunately, such programs remain relatively isolated from each other and underfunded. This leaves little time to reflect on experiences and outcomes and enable different programs to learn from one another.


Research objective

The overall objective of the project is to both assess and enhance the potential of alternative, innovative learning engagement programs for supporting disenfranchised Australian youth. This will contribute to students’ personal well-being as well as the national educational attainment and social inclusion goals.

Put simply, the research will answer 'who gets what?' as well as 'what works and why?'. The project will enhance visibility of the large number of programs and establish a framework of benchmarks to guide and support the success of these programs.

An important additional objective is to contribute to improved pathways for sharing information within the alternative and flexible education sector.


The project aims cover three stages - access, outcomes, and benchmarking:

  • investigate access to alternative flexible programs across Australia and analyse the diversity of provision
  • analyse outcomes from promising 'good practice' programs
  • develop and share implications, benchmarks and resources for enhancing successful educational provision for marginalised young people.

Project team


Ms Jo Taylor (Dusseldorp Forum), Prof. Kitty te Riele (The Victoria Institute) and Ms Janet Hirst (CEO of the Ian Potter Foundation) at the launch of Putting the Jigsaw together.

The Ian Potter Foundation's philanthropy is guided by general principles to fund prevention rather than cure, to support and encourage excellence, and to look for innovative solutions and ideas.This research project is generously funded by the Ian Potter Foundation for the period 2012-2014.

Additional support is provided by Dusseldorp Skills Forum (DSF), in particular for the dissemination of findings.

DSF is an independent, not for profit body that develops and advances the innovative practices of those who engage young Australians in acquiring skills for a sustainable future.


Putting the jigsaw together project in the news:


For further information contact:

Professor Kitty te Riele
Phone: +61 3 6226 6705
Email: [email protected]