Aspirations Despite Adversity – Philosophy Of Hope In Flexible Learning Programs

Year: 2015

Author: Te Riele, Kitty

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Schooling and society do not serve all young people well. For these young people, developing positive plans and hopes for the future takes on particular urgency. Flexible Learning Programs cater especially to such young people, by changing the approach to educational provision in ways that enable them to complete Year 10/11/12 credentials. Although young people come to Flexible Learning Programs for a range of reasons, they have in common that conventional approaches to schooling have not worked well. Moreover, often they have faced (and continue to face) significant challenges in their life, for example through poverty, homelessness, substance dependence, or caring responsibilities. In this context of educational and social adversity, Flexible Learning Programs work with young people for both the present (in terms of learning and wellbeing) and the future (in terms of aspirations and pathways).
This paper reports on findings based on one multi-site program in Melbourne: Melbourne City Mission’s Melbourne Academy. The research used a student survey specifically about pathways, as well as more broad-ranging interviews with students, staff and parents. The research found that student aspirations were focused around the achievement of the Year 12 qualification, employment and financial independence, and living and contributing to a positive community. The paper examines the work of the Melbourne Academy towards aspirations and pathways in relation to four practical resources that apply philosophy of hope to work with marginalised young people: a positive culture; focusing on possibility; establishing a community of hope; and critical reflection (Te Riele, 2010). The concept of hope is a tool for exploring a politics of possibility in education. Rather than merely critiquing existing practices, this requires the ability to imagine an alternative future. Similarly, for young people facing adversity, hope is a core component of being able to aspire to a different and better future.