You are here

Competent Learners on the Edge of Adulthood: A summary of key findings from the Competent Learners @ 16 project

Cathy Wylie, Edith Hodgen, Rosemary Hipkins, & Karen Vaughan

The Competent Children, Competent Learners project is a longitudinal study which focuses on a group of about 500 young people from the greater Wellington region (Wellington, Hutt, Kapiti, and Wairarapa). It is funded by the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

The project started in 1993, when the young people were almost 5 years old and in early childhood education. Its original purpose was to look at whether—and how—early childhood education helps children become lifelong learners. The project has charted the development of the students’ cognitive competencies, as well as the development of their social and communication skills.

It also explores the students’ home and education experiences to find out which of these experiences may account for differences in their patterns of development and performance.

So far we have collected data on the young people at two-yearly intervals—at ages 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16; we will be returning to the young people later in 2008 and in 2009, when they are 20. This summary, Competent Learners On the Edge of Adulthood, presents key findings from the five research reports completed using data collected in 2005, when the students were 16.

Altogether, 447 young people took part in the age-16 phase of the project. Of these, 420 were still at school, and 27 had left school. Most were still living in the Wellington area, but 50 were living in other parts of New Zealand. Just over half the school students were in Year 12, and the remainder in Year 11. They attended a total of 72 different secondary schools.

It is important to note that our sample was not intended to be representative of all New Zealand children. Rather, it was drawn to represent the proportions of children attending the main types of early childhood education in the Wellington region in 1993. Compared to the national average, our sample has higher proportions of young people from high-income families, and with mothers who have trade and tertiary-level qualifications. Our sample also has lower than average proportions of Mäori and Pacific young people, and those who attend low decile schools.

This means that some of our findings may give a slightly more positive picture than you would get from a truly representative sample of New Zealand 16-year-olds. This is particularly the case for the findings that are affected by family income and maternal qualifications.

However, the sample does have enough 16-year-olds in different situations to allow us to compare how those different situations might make a difference for their performance and experiences, so that we can provide a reasonable picture of the weight of those different situations in what is happening for 16-year-olds across the whole of New Zealand.

Read online: Competent Learners on the Edge of Adulthood: A summary of key findings from the Competent Learners @ 16 project [on the Ministry of Education's website]

Competent Learners on the Edge of Adulthood:  Technical Report [on the Ministry of Education's website]

More Competent Learners reports [on the Ministry of Education's website]

Project page: Competent Children, Competent Learners (1992- )

Year published: 
Publication type: 
Research report
NZCER, for the Ministry of Education
Full text download: