Science focus creates more Pacific medical professionals
De La Salle College for boys in South Auckland is seeing significant progress in senior student achievement by making science compulsory for Years 7 and up and setting clear pathways into careers in areas such as medicine and health.
Toma Laumalili is one of the students working towards a career in medicine.
Last year at Level 3 every final-year science student in a cohort called the Health Science Academy at De La Salle College went on to tertiary studies. Most of their scholarships were science-based, and six of the students from the class of 25 are aiming to become doctors, with their first step being a Bachelor of Science degree at university. One will train to become an anaesthetist.
The head of the science faculty, Kane Raukura, says the academy is made up of mainly Pacific young people.
"There is a growing need in the Auckland health workforce across a wide range of vocations, from nursing to chiropractic, for people from the Pacific community with appropriate skills and qualifications. Currently, there is a shortage in most skill areas."
The schools that make up the academy are De La Salle, Tangaroa College, Onehunga High School, Auckland Girls’ Grammar and Manurewa High School, and all have a majority of Pacific students.
"Their studies have a real-world context," says Kane, "and we teach them how that will help them reach their career goals. All students aiming for a career in health are virtually guaranteed work in the local area, most likely with a health board.
"We work hard to make the links between the learning and what is needed next by the students, either tertiary study or work. We give them the belief that they can do as well as students at King’s College or anywhere else.
"They can’t wait until they’re at or near tertiary level to be deciding about their future. They need to expand their science knowledge consistently from Year 7 and have a map of where they are going next."
Many former De La Salle students have become doctors at Middlemore Hospital.
However, other career pathways such as chemical or electrical engineering are also an option because of the physics component of the science curriculum for academy students.
The academy members are a group of 25 students in Years 11, 12 and 13. There are three cohorts, one each at Levels 1, 2 and 3. The boys have to apply to be accepted, the expectations are high and they must maintain their grades to remain.
"In theory, a lot of things are stacked against us being successful as a school,” Kane says.
"This is the first time that many families have had their kids go to uni. Many households have low incomes, and some students have poor literacy. But we don’t see that as a reason to fail. With the correct support networks and strong teacher-student relationships, anything is possible."
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