Sunday, 29 July 2018

NCEA review - for discussion

This conversation about the NCEA review if for parents, school students, grandparents, employers, tertiary students, employees, educators, politicians,...everyone.

NCEA was phased in between 2002 and 2004.  It replaced an exam system of percentage of one assessment opportunity of School Certificate and Bursary, and it replaced number system of many assessment assignments in Sixth Form Certificate.  The early 2000's was the first time in decades that major changes had been made to our qualification.  Now, 16 years on, we are having our first big review of it.  This review is about how NCEA works as a qualification.  At the end of the review some aspects of it will not have been for discussion at all.  Not up for discussion are the content of the standards themselves, that is for another time.  Whether or not we should have standards based the end of this review, we will still have standards based assessment and it will still be called NCEA - that is not up for discussion either.

So, what do you think?

This blog is about presenting some of the information to you and then give you ways to have conversations about it, and then have your say.

Attending a public meeting:

To find events near you, you can go to this website  is the best place to start if you're looking for information.  This year, I am on sabbatical from my school and so decided to dive into this conversation at a public meeting, since Im not part of the conversation at school.  I attended a public meeting in Christchurch last week, and even though most teachers are talking about this in their schools, I recommend going to a public meeting as well!  In the room were parents, students, primary teachers, secondary teachers, employers, university students, people with dyslexia, parents of dyslexic students, different ethnicities, grandparents..... We were put into groups and in my group was a retired learning support teacher, a parent with NCEA aged children adn younger, and another parent with children just out of NCEA plus me, a teacher, head of department, and parent of dyslexic pre-NCEA-children.  The perspective of the people in my team made me think wider than my own experience as head of a learning area in my school which is what I think would have dominated my thinking if I had only had this thinking at school.  It made me think about NCEA from the point of view than my own.

What works well about NCEA?

This was the first question of the night.  There is no point in throwing the baby out with the bath water and all that and, despite a lot of NCEA being a pain, upon reflection, most of 'the pain' was school systems, not NCEA itself.  It's great that there are a collection of standards I can choose to put against what my students learn.  That students can pick 'n' mix their qualification.  It is great that there is a balance between internally assessed and externally assessed standards for students, spreading out the work load.  80 credits per certificate was achievable for most students.  Internal assessment modes can reflect the learning process, giving students a better link from learning to assessment, this increases student grades.  Also, the short time after learning, before assessment also increases student grades for internal assessments.  There is already scope for students to do larger projects and have NCEA applied to it.  Internal assessment is not time limited (although a lot of schools do limit it - school system problem, not NCEA problem).  Most internal assessments can be sat when the student is ready - we recognised that only a few would have specified dates such as field trip based assessments.  Internal assessment could continue to be completed even, beyond the beginning of exam time (again, a school system limitation, not NCEA).

What needs changing about NCEA?

Well, there were a lot more post-it notes written and stuck to the A3 question page for this question.  Some of the ideas included... No alternative to reading and writing for external assessments which encourages dyslexic students to choose internal pathways only, and this limits their options beyond each level of NCEA and into tertiary options.... The read/write limiting factor of external assessment does not test the student's thinking or understanding, but their ability to read a question and then write a coherent, and concise answer which disadvantages dyslexic students a lot....The credits given for one standard of one learning area seem disparit to the credits given to another in a different learning area and physics compared to tourism where cited as examples....NCEA needs to be free, to everyone.  Lots of students don't have learning records because their families can't/dont pay.  Even though there is room for hardship, the students who come under this scheme still have to pay.  They shouldn't pay for it, and they shouldn't have to ask not to pay for it...Administration of NCEA assessment and moderation takes about 50% of my time as a head of learning area.  The other 50% of my time has to be divided amoungst other parts of my job: leadership within department, support of learning within my department, support of colleagues I am directly responsible for, support of students learning in my department, support of my senior leadership team, and contribution to the wider learning and teaching of the school....
These two are the biggest for me....
  1. The flexibility already inherent in NCEA is not promoted widely at any level, shared, or explained deeply.  If it were, then students and parents would be in a better position to drive their own learning pathways and demand that school systems change.  This year I am working with a number of schools over NZ, many secondary, and most of them are not aware of the inherent flexibility within NCEA already available.  
  2. Schools need to be strongly encouraged to provide NCEA flexibility and it needs to be reviewed.  Students earning 180+ credits at Merit and Excellence is not healthy for students and is part of the huge NCEA workload of teachers and heads of learning areas.

The Big Opportunities:

There are 6 Big Opportunities.  They are 6 "What if..." ideas that came out of the Ministarial Advisory Group.  They are not the ideas we have to choose out of but ideas to get us thinking.  you might like some of them, you might have other ideas that are better.  Nothing is set yet, the Ministry of Ed is still consulting all of us.

What do you think of these big opportunities?  Do they make you think of other ideas, that might be better?

Getting more information:

The Conversations.Education wesbite is the best place to get the information you need and you can find that here  Please be aware that there are other reviews about our education system going on at the same time as the NCEA review and this website gives information about them all, so select the NCEA discussion

If you want to join in on discussions with other people before you have your say then you can.  There are public meetings and online forum.  You can also just strike up a conversation with your family and friends, or colleagues.
Online forum that have this conversation going are: Facebook, Neighbourly, Twitter, and Instagram, follow these hashtags
  • #NCEAReview
  • #NCEAHaveYourSay
  • #EdConvo18
  • #NCEAMakeYourMark
When you are ready to make your comment formally you can have your thoughts recorded in a number of ways:  via a public meeting, you can complete a survey, you can make a detailed submission, or you can make a video and submit it in a competition.  This page as the links to ways you can contribute your ideas

The most important thing is to think, chat about it, and have your say.


  1. Great summary and feedback. I hope you are using it as the basis for a submission.

    1. Yes, but I feel I need to discuss it a bit more with others first


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