Promoting Inclusivity: Ensuring Accessible VET Resources for All Learners in Australia Leave a comment

Introduction

VET programs and their qualifications are for all learners of Australia. It is important for the VET system to make its courses accessible to all its learners with the help of TAFEs and RTOs. VET programs are to be inclusive for all disadvantaged learners for their professional development. This blog will explore all the ways VET programs and their professional learning resources are providing services to make VET inclusive for all learners including disadvantaged learners through the Australian RTOs.

The VET regulator ASQA and the Standards for RTOs 2015 mandate VET providers to follow access and equity service principles. It mandates RTOs to develop policies and approaches that assure VET is responsive to all its learner needs irrespective of their age, culture, disability, LLN levels, unemployment or location.

Who are disadvantaged learners?

Disadvantaged learners are specific groups of individuals who face various barriers and challenges in accessing and succeeding in vocational education and training (VET) programs.

Disadvantaged learners include the following 5 types of learners:

  • Indigenous learners: Learners who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in Australia are Indigenous students.
  • Learners with a disability: Learners who have a physical, sensory, intellectual, or learning disability that may impact their participation and success in VET.

What is the definition of disability?

Disability is an umbrella term that includes physical and learning disabilities. It also includes chronic medical conditions and mental health illnesses.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is a legislative instrument that along with the Disability Standards for Education 2005 provide disability awareness and explain in detail the guidelines and rules that training organisations are obligated to follow.

To know further about providing quality training to learners with disabilities you can read this fact sheet from ASQA, or you can read the Australian Human Rights Commission Guide to disability discrimination.

  • CALD learners (learners from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds): Learners from non-English speaking backgrounds or those who come from culturally diverse communities.
  • Unemployed learners: Learners who are currently unemployed and seeking employment opportunities through VET programs.
  • Learners with low levels of prior education attainment: Learners who have not completed Year 12 (the final year of the Australian curriculum) or have not obtained a certificate III or above on the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) may be due to financial disadvantage or other reasons.
    Before we move to inclusive ways of providing VET resources it is important to understand reasonable adjustment. For providing inclusive education and quality training which meets learner needs certain educational adjustments are done to curriculum resources for disabled learners. It is important to understand it first.

What is Reasonable Adjustment in Education for Learners with Disability?

Reasonable adjustment is a legislative term that refers to measures taken by education providers to enable learners with disabilities to participate in education and training on an equal basis with learners without disabilities. In vocational education and training (VET), all Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) are obligated to provide reasonable adjustments to ensure maximum student engagement.

  • Purpose of Reasonable Adjustment in inclusive education policy

The purpose of reasonable adjustment in inclusive education policy is to enable learners with disabilities to fully participate in education and training and have the same opportunities to perform and complete assessments as learners without disabilities. It aims to lessen the impact of an individual’s disability on their capacity to learn while upholding the integrity of the qualification.

In promoting reasonable adjustment practices for learners with disabilities, RTOs adopt the following approaches:

  • Encouraging learner disclosure of disability to tailor learning plans.

RTOs actively promote and encourage learners to disclose their disabilities and medical information ensuring that appropriate support can be provided. Learners are empowered to share information about their disabilities in a safe and non-judgmental environment. By fostering open communication, RTOs create a supportive atmosphere that respects the individual’s right to privacy and confidentiality.

  • Gathering relevant supporting information to improve educational settings.

RTOs undertake the responsibility of collecting comprehensive and relevant supporting information regarding the learner’s needs. This information serves as a basis for informed decision-making and determining suitable adjustments in curriculum development. By conducting thorough assessments and evaluations, RTOs ensure that the reasonable adjustment process is tailored to meet the additional needs of the student’s disability learner in regular classes or online classes.

  • Consulting with the learner and their associate:

RTO practices prioritise collaborative decision-making processes that involve the learner and relevant individuals in determining suitable adjustments. By actively engaging with the learner and their support persons, such as parents, guardians, or support professionals, RTOs ensure that all perspectives are considered. This collaborative approach empowers learners to actively participate in shaping their own educational experience and promotes a sense of ownership and self-advocacy.

With these key considerations, RTOs emphasise open professional conversations, respect, and inclusivity. By actively encouraging disclosure, collecting relevant personal information, and involving learners and their associates in decision-making, higher education institutions create an environment where reasonable adjustments can be tailored to the inherent requirements of each learner. This collaborative and person-centred approach fosters inclusivity, promotes high learning quality and enables learners with disabilities to fully engage in vocational education and training.

How VET provides inclusivity for better learning outcomes?

Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs play a crucial role in promoting inclusivity for all including disadvantaged learners. Training and assessment materials that are mindful of indigenous Australians, mental health as well as physical limitations and culturally diverse backgrounds. VET practice employs assistive technologies and quality standards in its education system that ensure disadvantaged learners can successfully participate in and complete vocational education programs. These education reforms aim to create an environment that addresses the unique needs of learners and promotes their educational journey. Let’s delve into some of the strategies that contribute to fostering inclusivity in VET learning resources.

  • VET programs use disadvantaged learners’ strengths to provide vocational education and training.

Adopting a strengths-based approach is a fundamental aspect of inclusive higher education in VET. This framework emphasises the significance of showing respect and support learning for learners by focusing on their strengths rather than adopting a deficit perspective. RTO trainers enhance their confidence and motivation by recognising and building on learners’ existing abilities, skills, and knowledge, leading to the best learning.

  • VET programs intervene early to understand the challenges faced by learners.

Early intervention is key to addressing potential challenges faced by learners. It involves identifying and addressing any issues (such as low English language competence) that hinder their progress as soon as possible. By providing timely support, learning programs, related resources and education training, VET providers or RTO trainers prevent further obstacles and ensure learners receive the necessary assistance to succeed in their educational journey.

  • VET programs offer Individualised support to disadvantaged learners

Acknowledging the diversity among learners, VET frameworks encourage the provision of individualised support for addressing specific challenges. This approach recognises that learners come from different backgrounds and have unique needs. By tailoring support services, accommodations, and resources to meet individual requirements, RTO trainers create an inclusive environment that supports learners throughout their learning process.

  • VET programs offer relevant and contextualised learning to disadvantaged learners

To engage learners effectively RTOs providing Australian vocational education programs make teaching content and course information relevant to their student’s needs. By connecting the learning material to real-life situations and experiences, VET programs enhance learners’ understanding and application of knowledge. Such rich learning experiences implemented with inclusive accessibility plans increase motivation and encourage active participation, promoting inclusivity and learner success.

  • VET programs develop strong comprehensive literacy skills for disadvantaged learners

RTOs develop strong literacy skills essential for tertiary education learners to succeed in their vocational education. The key principles framework emphasises teaching all four literacy skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. By incorporating strategies such as phonics exercises, dictation activities, and opportunities for oral practice, VET providers lay a solid foundation in adult literacy and improve learners’ overall communication abilities as well as social skills.

  • VET programs offer culturally responsive teaching to disadvantaged learners

Recognising and respecting learners’ diverse cultural backgrounds, religions, and ages is vital in creating an inclusive learning environment. VET’s culturally differentiated teaching involves adapting instructional approaches (with the help of specialist staff), educational resources (learning material in an additional language), and assessments to align with learners’ cultural identities and contexts. RTO Trainers demonstrate qualities such as patience, understanding, and respect, fostering a positive and inclusive learning environment for all learners.

  • VET programs offer varied teaching strategies for disadvantaged learners

Inclusive teaching design approaches from VET programs cater to diverse learning styles and preferences. By employing a range of teaching strategies, RTO trainers accommodate different learning needs. This includes incorporating visual aids (webinar recording), hands-on activities, group work, and technology-based innovative products or tools. RTOs consult teaching and learning specialists, health professionals, disability practitioners or other support staff to develop teaching materials. By embracing varied instructional methods, trainers enhance learner engagement and ensure that all learners have equal opportunities for success.

  • RTOs offer a supportive learning environment to disadvantaged learners with their VET courses

Creating a supportive and stimulating learning environment is crucial for promoting inclusivity. This involves providing opportunities for revision, offering additional support on an individual basis, and fostering a positive learning experience in the classroom culture. By promoting collaboration, respect, and open communication, VET providers ensure that learners feel valued, supported, and encouraged to achieve their goals. The supportive learning range of services helps students to join the labour force.

  • RTOs form collaborative partnerships with the community and industry to offer inclusive VET programs.

RTOs establish partnerships with community organisations, employers, and independent schools and support student services to expand the support network available to learners. By working collaboratively, VET providers tap into a range of resources and expertise to address the specific needs of disadvantaged learners. These partnerships provide access to mentorship programs, comprehensive resources, counselling services, financial assistance, and other support mechanisms.

  • RTOs offer flexible delivery modes to disadvantaged learners and promote inclusive learning

RTOs offer flexible delivery modes that increase accessibility and accommodate learners’ diverse needs (like different health conditions). This includes providing online or blended learning options, allowing learners to study at their own pace, or offering evening or weekend or special classes to cater to those with work or family commitments. Online learning options and blended learning options help RTOs in providing quality training. Remote students from remote areas are immensely benefited from such a form of inclusive education. Flexible delivery modes empower learners by providing them with options that suit their individual circumstances.

  • RTOs enable continuous improvement by offering regular feedback to disadvantaged learners

Engaging learners in the continuous improvement process fosters inclusivity. VET practitioners demonstrate a commitment to meeting the needs of disadvantaged learners with their inclusive VET programs. VET providers actively seek learner feedback through surveys, focus groups, or individual discussions. This feedback enables the development of good teaching policies, VET resources, and teaching approaches, ensuring that the learning experience becomes more responsive and inclusive over time.

  • RTOs offer professional development to trainers who train disadvantaged learners

RTOs invest in the professional development of their trainers to be inclusive in VET programs. RTOs conduct training and workshops to enhance trainers’ understanding of diversity, cultural competence, and inclusive teaching practices. RTOs equip their trainers and academic staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to provide high quality education.  RTOs ensure their VET providers are prepared to meet the diverse needs of learners and create inclusive educational opportunities.

  • RTOs constantly monitor and evaluate their VET program practices (teaching and assessment)

RTOs regularly monitor and evaluate their inclusive practices, training goals and outcomes to drive continuous improvement. VET providers establish mechanisms (like online surveys) to collect data, track learner progress, and assess the effectiveness of their inclusivity strategies, student support services and VET resources. This data-driven approach enables RTOs to identify areas for improvement in the education settings, address emerging challenges, and support teachers as well as individual needs in fostering inclusivity within their VET programs.

Conclusion

Promoting inclusive education and ensuring accessible VET resources for disadvantaged learners in Australian institutes is crucial for creating equitable learning opportunities and improving their educational, career and wellbeing outcomes. By addressing the unique challenges faced by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander learners, learners with mental health or physical disabilities, CALD learners, unemployed learners, and learners with low levels of prior educational attainment, VET programs can provide targeted support and tailored resources.

Strategies such as building on strengths, early intervention, individualised support, and culturally responsive teaching are inherent requirements to create inclusive learning environments that value diversity.

RTOs play a vital role in improving participation and success for disadvantaged learners by offering tailored support services, flexible delivery options, financial assistance, and collaboration with community organisations.

By implementing these access plans and quality differentiated teaching practices, the Australian government can foster more inclusive education standards and an accessible VET sector that empowers all learners to achieve their educational and career goals.

We at Vet Resources provide quality RTO training materials, lesson plans, and session plans to RTO learning centres. With these, your RTO can provide inclusive VET teaching to learners for a fair chance at life. For further information contact us here.

Disclaimer:
The information presented on the VET Resources blog is for general guidance only. While we strive for accuracy, we cannot guarantee the completeness or timeliness of the information. VET Resources is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Always consult a professional for advice tailored to your circumstances.

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