Outcomes from Flexible Learning Options for disenfranchised youth: what counts?

ABSTRACT

Flexible Learning Options (FLOs) are common across many countries to enable secondary school completion by young people for whom mainstream schooling has not worked well. Access to high-quality education through FLOs is a social justice issue. In the context of an inclination among governments for accountability and evidence-based policy, as well as of financial austerity, there is pressure on FLOs to demonstrate and publicise their outcomes. This work is not straightforward, due to debates about the purposes of education and to difficulties in measurement. This paper analyses Australian practical and evaluation reports, so-called grey literature, to examine the specific outcomes that are the focus of those publications, alongside the evidence that is provided to substantiate these claims. Our aim is to contribute to better understandings of what counts as success in these settings, and how that success may be demonstrated. Overall, the reports focus on five different sets of outcomes: traditional academic outcomes, post-programme destinations, student engagement, personal and social well-being, and broader community engagement and well-being. Across the reports, there was a strong emphasis on qualitative research methods, often supplemented with descriptive statistics and case studies. The paper concludes by exploring the implications of the analysis for determining ‘what counts’ as outcomes from FLOs.
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