Catalyst-Clemente ALA 48th Annual National Conference 2008 Perth, Western Australia
Background • The potential of education, including education, to change lives and promote social inclusion is well accepted (Warwick, 2001; Hammond, 2004) • Yet such education is often inaccessible to the very people who might benefit most (Mission Australia, 2007)
Access for underrepresented groups • People from low SES backgrounds are one thirds as likely to participate in higher education • Low SES: 25% of population, 15% of uni places • High SES: 25% of population, 45% of uni places
Underlying causes of differential access rates • Aspirations / horizons • Lack of awareness or understanding of higher education • Lack of encouragement from significant others • School achievement • Significantly lower school completion rates & lower year 12 scores • Actual cost / perception of cost • Concerns about immediate costs/ debt /delayed earning
Catalyst-Clemente Program • Innovative educational program working with Australians facing disadvantage • Based on an international model that delivers university-level humanities education in a community setting
Riches for PoorEarl Shorris • American journalist and social commentator • Began Clemente program in New York in 1997 • Based on philosophy that higher education in humanities gives people the opportunity to think & reflect on the world where they live • Intellectual engagement can promote a broader re-engagement with society
‘The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you. I think the humanities are one of the ways to become political, and I don’t mean political in the sense of voting in an election, but in a broad political sense. The way Pericles, a man who lived in ancient Athens, used the word ‘politics ‘to mean activity with other people at every level, from the family to the neighbourhod to the broader commmunity to the city /state in which he lived’ (Shorris, p.127).
Catalyst-Clemente Program • Making university education accessible to disadvantaged Australians • Enhancing self-confidence rigorous learning helps bring about personal change • Positive view of future enhances lives & promotes transition • Potential of humanities education to change lives and promote social inclusion • Genuine intersectoral collaboration
Catalyst-Clemente in Australia • St Vincent de Paul Society commenced Clemente in Sydney in 2003 • Mission Australia commenced Catalyst in partnership with Australian Catholic University • Sydney 2005 • Brisbane 2006 • Melbourne 2008 • Perth 2008
Partnerships • Genuine cross-sector collaboration • Community organisations, university & external corporate supporters • Key contributors: • Academics • Community agency support staff • “Catalyst Coordinator” • Learning partners • Recruited from community (usually corporate sector)- meet with students one-on-one each week for duration of course
Pre-requisites for participants • A desire to learn • A willingness to try to commit to a 12 week program • A literacy level sufficient to read a newspaper • Some ‘stability’ in their lives
Structure • Each subject takes 12 weeks with students taking one subject at a time • Range of subjects with teaching and content provided by partner University, for example, Introduction to Sociology, Art history, English & Social Change, Reading the Media, Introduction to Gender & Equity • Four subjects qualify participants to receive a Non-Award Certificate of Liberal Arts
Research • Research on the effects of the Catalyst –Clemente program is in it’s infancy (Hyland-Russell, 2006) • Results of preliminary research on re-engaging homeless people in inner city Sydney were positive, noting increased student self-esteem and autonomy (Yasin-Shaw, Howard & Butcher, 2005)
National Research • Research investigating the impact of the Catalyst program has taken place in sites across Australia • Participatory qualitative research & mixed methods used • Participants in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne & Perth were asked questions about their expectations and experiences
Expectations & Aspirations ‘To get my life back on track’ ‘Overcome certain personal habits & emotional issues (such as guilt, anxiety & depression)’ ‘Facing the fear of the future and opening themselves up to new things ‘To gain, keep on discovering and find something valuable’ ‘To learn more about the world we live in, in turn maybe I can learn about myself ‘To hopefully find out what I want to do with my life’ ‘To revive my ability to learn’ ‘To live a decent, enjoyable life’ ‘To return to work’ 16
Self • Impact on participants’ wellbeing, including self-esteem, confidence, and personal development ‘I need something meaningful in my life because up until now it has been just busy surviving...but now I am able to start this ...I feel encouraged to just have a go and I have found by having a go, that is from having awareness, all kinds of things are opening up’ (Participant, Sydney) “My depression has improved greatly. I just don’t have as much time to give to the negative aspects of life’ ’(Participant, Perth)
Self • Participants reported a re-assessment of their self worth, leading to a better understanding of themselves ‘It might be too soon to say but I think it has enhanced my self-esteem. I think my teenage son is proud of me’ (Participant, Brisbane) “I’ve changed…I’ve rediscovered my brain, and found some enthusiasm where there was apathy’ ’(Participant, Perth)
A realisation of personal potential ‘It is about realising that I am not the loser I tell myself I am, that I can contribute, that I have something worthwhile to bring to class & society’ (Participant, Brisbane) ‘I think the whole process we’re going through is not to be perfect but to do the best we can with what we’ve got...and build on it’ (Participant, Perth)
Gaining emotional & social understanding • An opportunity not only for learning, but life change ‘It’s opened my eyes. It’s given me a new way of looking at the world. It’s also challenged me, but shown me I have capabilities that I would never have expected’ (Participant, Perth) ‘I found that such lively debate is exciting, to be able to talk about things. You don’t often get the opportunity to discuss things like that level in the world, to get other people’s perspective...and makes me think in different ways’ (Participant, Perth)
Community Cultural Participation • Students commented on the value of participation in community arts & cultural activities ‘Just the experience of going to the theatre, never done that before, and that was a real eye opener, something that I didn’t really think I was going to enjoy, and I ended up enjoying it’ (Participant, Sydney) 21
Social interaction &re-engagement • Social isolation is a key feature of the lives of many disadvantaged Australians and can have a negative effect on health & wellbeing ‘It is a great joy being here with my peers...you find yourself talking not just about art, you are talking about life, which is what it is about anyway’ (Participant, Brisbane) Having a little community group to be part of…that was very important...and feel like I have something supportive every week...something to keep me active and thinking and meeting people and learning’’ (Participant, Perth)
An enthusiasm for learning • Many disadvantaged Australians have poor educational experiences ‘This whole experience is really alien...I never went to school. I’ve had an interest in the content of what we’re been studying but I haven’t had the discipline to actually sit down and read and write an assignment...So it’s been challenging and rewarding and I’ve received quite good marks...It comes as a bit of a shock to me...It’s been really good for my confidence that I’m at this university level. I would have never have guessed that’ (Participant, Sydney)
Healing and growth Participant A:My doctor says he’s never seen me better Participant B: Mine too Participant C: It gives you a new lease on life, now you’re someone Participant A: Like we’re doing now, taking baby steps and gradually building up.Learning to walk with our own two feet (Participants, Melbourne)
The future • Participants spoke increasingly about the future ‘It has helping (me) for the present, for now, to think a bit more positively about the future and taking those steps into the future. It is currently a key part of my positive steps in life...’ (Participant, Brisbane)
Retention Rate • Even if students did not complete program significant positive changes can occur: ‘I have worked with the same person through two programs, in the first he achieved a distinction, and in this one he left the program to move and make some changes in life – if you looked at completion alone, you would not see the total picture. An extremely positive outcome…(he) reconnected with his family, established a relationship and conversation turned from talking about his past into one that was future orientated’ (Catalyst-Clemente learning partner)
Case Study (Sydney) Dave lives in transitional accommodation and is hoping to secure public housing. His life over the past 20 years has been charaterised by mental illness, drug abuse, homelessness & prison. He had a lifelong interest in art and participated in a Catalyst-Clemente course focusing on the history of art. The program has made him more confident of what he can do in an academic sense, in terms of his self confidence and alibility to be part of a group. David has now been accepted into the National Art School.
Case Study (Brisbane) • Bruce (aged 50 -54 years) is receiving disability benefits. The last time he had undertaken education was Year 8 at school, 38 years ago. His simple goal was: ‘opening myself up for future opportunities’. He described how the course allowed him to ‘fulfil and awaken a sleeping passion to be involved in the arts’. He is keen to pursue further education.
Conclusion • Preliminary research indicates that participation in the Catalyst-Clemente course at an appropriate point in the life course can affect real transitions resulting in enhanced social and economic participation
Key attributes that contribute to success • Delivery in an environment with which the students are comfortable • Small classes (8-15) • Humanities education (acting as a challenge to students to reflect on society) • Rigorous university level education • A lecturer with a flexible & engaging method of teaching & communicating
Key attributes that contribute to success • Learning partners who are part of the learning journey • Availability of a “welfare” worker who supports students non-educational needs that learning partners & lecturers can turn for support • Administration & IT support, including access to computers
Issues for sustainability • Expand financial support for program • Expand educational / academic support for program • Gathering adequate financial and ‘in-kind’ support to consolidate and expand the program • Longitudinal research required to ensure changes in student’s lives are sustainable
A tree with tree branches - one whole apple, one with a bite out of it and one apple core. The tree symbolises growth. The branches represent a ladder to climb (to be able to) reach high. The apples are forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge.