Raising the bar for study of tourism education

Issue: Volume 101, Number 1

Posted: 2 February 2022
Reference #: 1HASbS

New achievement standards will help the hard-hit tourism sector by educating and upskilling a workforce to meet future challenges.


New Zealand’s tourism sector has been decimated by the global Covid pandemic, but that’s even more reason for a future workforce with innovative and analytical higher thinking skills, says Megan Roberts, senior lecturer in tourism at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

In September last year, the Government announced the range of NCEA subjects that will be available for young people in The New Zealand Curriculum Levels 2 and 3, and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa Levels 1 to 3, including the addition of Tourism.

Megan and Julie McDougall, chairperson of the Tourism Teachers Association – New Zealand (TTA–NZ), are part of a Subject Expert Group (SEG) currently developing NCEA Level 2 and Level 3 achievement standards in Tourism which will be piloted in 2024 ahead of the scheduled implementation of all NCEA Level 2 subjects and Wāhanga Ako in 2025.

Seeking a relevant curriculum

Currently, tourism courses at tertiary level struggle to attract a variety of students with varying skill sets and abilities and both Julie and Megan hope the new achievement standards will address this issue.

Secondary school tourism education in Aotearoa, which currently only offers unit standards, has predominantly been categorised as vocational. The study of tourism has lacked credibility and been perceived as less rigorous compared to more traditional subjects, explains Megan.

“These perceptions have contributed to declining tourism student numbers and a dumbing down of the curriculum at secondary school level.

“One of the issues is that the curriculum was designed by industry for industry. It’s been owned by the ITO (industry training organisation). There are not many subjects where the ITO curriculum is taught in high schools. That’s all good, but we must work together – a robust, relevant, authentic curriculum is not developed solely by industry and it’s not developed solely by educators,” she says.

Julie says that TTA–NZ was established because tourism teachers in secondary schools were concerned that the current unit standards don’t address the wide spectrum of study, career and job opportunities involved in tourism.

“Achievement standards should address this and focus on the exciting variety of opportunities now and in the future in tourism. The expectation of student learning, engagement, achievement and satisfaction should be raised because students will be considering the structure of the tourism industry, the local, regional and/or global tourism issues and possible solutions individually and within groups in creative, critical and analytical ways,” she says.

TTA–NZ has canvassed members and put together some big ideas, which the subject association will share with the SEG.

Many opportunities

Julie believes that developing a new range of relevant achievement standards, which allow and encourage students to think in innovative ways, analyse issues and collaborate to solve problems, is timely and relevant.

Prior to the pandemic and closing of Aotearoa’s borders, the tourism sector was struggling to meet workforce needs. While many people see the face of tourism mainly through frontline and service roles, there is a need for multi-faceted people with management, marketing, technology and business skills, says Megan.

Megan Roberts.

Megan Roberts.

“There are so many opportunities across different businesses. Technology is obviously a big player in so many different facets of businesses. For example, Air New Zealand has their product across multiple websites where they are monitoring supply and demand every second of every day. The airline also uses technology in many areas of its business, for example in cargo, marketing and people management,” she says.

Understanding customer psychology is also important in designing customer experiences as well as in product development, explains Megan.

“There’s a lot of literature and theory around tourism demand; understanding why people travel and how they travel is quite important to the values of your business and also the product that you put into the market.

“Multi-faceted graduates have more options in terms of career, more resilience and they’re more valuable to a range of employers,” she says.

Flexible thinkers

“People will travel in a different way – we will be moving around but we’re going to be thinking differently, so we need smart young people – analytical, creative and critical thinkers with a desire to contribute to the future of tourism – who are aware of the different elements of what the pandemic has brought,” says Megan.

“Better educated graduates will be better suited to the workplace of the future. They will have to be nimble and able to consider and adjust to even more external factors like those we are currently facing, such as pandemics, climate change and sustainability,” adds Julie.

Megan agrees and says that NCEA level tourism courses will offer learning opportunities that are relevant, authentic and flexible. “With the development of NCEA courses, pathways into tertiary education or the tourism workforce will be much clearer.

“It’s a multi-disciplinary subject, so it draws from many different areas such as psychology, geography, economics – and I think that feeds into how we design curriculum because it’s tourism-related, but taught with different lenses,” she says.

Julie says the achievement standards will help to lessen the knowledge gap if students move into tertiary study or go straight into the industry.

“They will be able to consider questions from a variety of perspectives as well as consider possible innovations, problem solve, think analytically and consider solutions for themselves,” she says.

Theory of tourism

The impacts of tourism, including economic, environmental, social, and cultural, will be one of the areas studied at secondary level.

“We have to realise that the world has completely changed, so we need to have young people who understand tourism in general and how they can focus on bringing the positive benefits of tourism into the communities that they are within,” comments Megan.

The building of relationships between secondary and tertiary tourism educators and members of the tourism industry is a strength, believes Julie.

“TTA–NZ works to support tourism teachers in secondary schools, builds relationships between secondary and tertiary tourism educators and members of the tourism industry.
We are also a part of TEFA (Tourism Educators Forum Aotearoa) – a secondary and tertiary tourism educators’ group in New Zealand,” she says.

At AUT, connections with a range of tourism businesses culminate in a work-integrated learning semester where, while still studying, students complete an industry-based project which is informed by theory.

Local problem-solving

Julie McDougall.

Julie McDougall.

There’s also an opportunity to develop some standards where local issues and problems could be studied, giving students the opportunity to communicate with their regional tourism organisations and businesses, says Julie.

“I would really like to see that in communities around New Zealand, that there are opportunities for young people to go into tourism businesses in their local communities,” she says.

“You look at the impact of businesses closing around the country. It will be a massive benefit if we can develop resilient businesses that are more focussed on our domestic market rather than our international market, that can be innovative and creative in the way they develop product and that are closely aligned to their communities,” says Julie.

“These are the modern ways of learning, so when you have that ability to link with an industry, it allows you to be much more authentic in your curriculum design assessment by using case studies, linking with businesses in an area, and opportunities to work with local iwi, to align learning and assessment with real life,” concludes Megan.

Subject Expert Groups

A significant number of the changes to NCEA will be delivered as part of the Review of Achievement Standards (RAS).

The RAS involves many teachers and other experts from the education sector working in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to develop new NCEA standards across a range of subjects, like tourism.

The Ministry has set up over 50 Subject Expert Groups – comprised of about 400 practising teachers, academics and representatives from the tertiary and industry sectors – to help develop these new achievement standards and supporting teaching and assessment resources for each subject.

Stay up to date with RAS, or visit NCEA.education(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:37 am, 2 February 2022

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