NCEA Rebels Remain Defiant

Sweeping changes to NCEA have not gone far enough, leading principals say.
NCEA rebels remain defiant
By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 30 May 2007

The Government announced major changes to the contentious system yesterday, aimed at restoring public confidence in New Zealand’s flagship secondary qualification.

But the heads of two prestige New Zealand schools – Wellington’s Scots College and Auckland’s King’s College – say it is not enough and they will still offer alternative international qualifications to satisfy parents.

Education Minister Steve Maharey admitted yesterday that public faith in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement had been badly damaged because of problems with its design and implementation.

He announced sweeping changes designed to motivate pupils to excel, and to deal with credibility issues with internal assessment, marking and grades.

NCEA has been plagued by criticism since its introduction in 2002.

Critics argued it was dumbing down pupils by letting them “cherry pick” easy subjects.

Some top schools have introduced Cambridge International Examinations or International Baccalaureate because of parental pressure.

They say there is too much internal assessment, wild marking inconsistencies between schools and that NCEA is not challenging the brightest pupils.

Three separate reviews ordered after the 2004 scholarship debacle made 191 recommendations to improve the standards-based qualification.

All have now been completed or are under way.

They include:

# Introducing “excellence” and “merit” to NCEA certificates and subject areas to motivate pupils.
# Including failed marks on pupils’ results notices.
# Employing fulltime moderators and increasing the amount of internally assessed marking they check to ensure national consistency.

Mr Maharey said NCEA was a world class system that challenged pupils, recognised achievement and prepared them for university.

He admitted that past problems had shaken public confidence but said the changes would enhance credibility.

He hoped schools would not feel compelled to offer alternative qualifications.

But Scots College principal Graeme Yule said the college would push ahead with plans to introduce Baccalaureate alongside NCEA because of parental concerns with the current system.

He was pleased the Government had finally admitted problems but said the changes did not cover key issues like marking inconsistencies, teacher workload or the credit weighting of easy subjects.

“I thought there was going to be a new vision. Really all they’ve done is put a new coat of paint on it.”

King’s College principal Roy Kelley would continue to offer Cambridge exams, which were preferred by 70 per cent of its year 12 and 13 pupils.

Both the Post Primary Teachers Association and Secondary Principals Association backed the changes.

Meanwhile, three Wellington High School classmates doubt the changes to NCEA will better motivate them to succeed.

Year 13 pupils Nicole Lyons, Alice Wylie-van Eerd and Lizzy Cobeldick are studying NCEA level three physical education.

The 17-year-olds were lukewarm about NCEA changes announced yesterday.

Nicole suggested awarding extra credits to pupils who attained higher marks as a way of motivating them to try harder.

Lizzy agreed. “That would make people way more motivated. If I was going to get more credits I’d study a lot more. It’s like someone who wins the race gets the same amount of credits as the people who lose. If you win you don’t want the bronze, you want the gold.”

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Clare Swinney

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