Mum, I want to be an Engineer: Differential access to high ability mathematics standards
We don’t have many Māori or Pacific Engineers and we need them. The University of Auckland’s Engineering degree programme is challenging and lists Level 3 Mathematics with Calculus as a compulsory prerequisite for consideration to enter. It has become common practice for secondary schools to stream by ability (for Mathematics) as early as Year 9 and continue this practice through to Year 13, Level 3. This means that placement in the highest ability groups throughout secondary school are necessary to study Level 3 Mathematics with Calculus. Thus, potential applicants for University Engineering programmes are predetermined as early as Year 9.
We present a case study of a high achieving Year 12 Māori secondary school student who wants to be an Engineer. He and his whānau encountered significant resistance by the school to allow him to study the appropriate Level 2 Mathematics prerequisites for Level 3 Mathematics with Calculus. This was despite the student achieving all his Level 1 Mathematics standards (achievement and unit) and having already achieved Level 2 NCEA with merit. The experience of this whānau led us to question whether Māori and Pacific students are given the same access to high ability Mathematics standards as other students. We present data sourced from NZQA and the University of Auckland’s Engineering entry data to address this question.