Archive for NCEA

NCEA is not at fault – but how we measure success is

In its editorial (20 May 2016), the NZ Herald was concerned about NCEA because “nearly half” of teachers surveyed were concerned.

The editorial provides a neat summary of what NCEA set out to do and notes that the moderation of the assessments has “worked well.” Then it notes that schools and parents get concerned when the “league tables” are published. Well, who publishes those tables?

NCEA is the most liberating innovation in New Zealand education for decades, and certainly since World War II. At long last, students are able to get credit for what they know and can do, rather than be punished for what they cannot do.

A parent that cares can see progress and, if the time is taken, can understand the skills that their young person has. The student knows what they have done successfully and what they need to do to build on that success. An employer has the potential to get more information about school success than ever before.

But most employers aren’t looking for whether a student can pass a test. They are looking beyond NCEA, for further qualifications that indicate the skills required to be work-ready and to understand the basics of the profession. And this is where NCEA has proved a winner.

Historically, our education system has been weak in helping students transition from secondary to post-secondary education and training, beyond the traditional high school to university track.

With NCEA being a portable qualification – where students are able to generate credit for knowledge and skills demonstrated in different places – education takes on a whole new meaning. It means these students, who never saw the purpose in what they were doing especially, now see the point of education and how it can be practically applied to their lives.

Since 2010, the Youth Guarantee scheme has seen the development of a variety of new approaches.

The Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Tertiary High School catches students judged by their schools at Year 10 to be in danger of disengaging (or as the US calls it, “dropping out”). Four years later, we see a very different story. Our students are gaining high levels of NCEA and simultaneously completing vocational and technical qualifications that are industry recognised.  For those that like the league tables: NCEA results as reported by NZQA are for 2014: Level 1, 100%; Level 2, 91.4%; and Level 3, 83.3%. In 2015 the pattern was repeated: Level 1, 80%; Level 2, 87%; Level 3, 100%.

The innovation of Trades Academies into schools is more conservative but equally as successful. Students go to a tertiary provider (a small number of schools do provide their own Trades Academies supported by tertiary providers) – for example, MIT provides Year 12 students training opportunities across 10 vocational and technical areas. Each student on average gains 18 NCEA credits that they are able to add to the credits they have gained at school.

But the gains go beyond this credit transfer, they develop a purpose for learning and they improve across all of their schooling as a result. They develop a line of sight to the world of work. And they also develop an understanding that education and training matters. A significant number of students involved in Trades Academies return to school to complete Year 13.

None of this would have been possible without NCEA. It allows for flexibility, it allows for closer connection between students and the purposes for pursuing an education. It is in essence an educational currency that accumulates to a point where they have the entry price to a great future. It allows for students to develop an understanding of how their learning can be applied to the real world.

It’s not NCEA that is at fault in creating too much work for teachers. It is the simple fact that our education system for the past 70 years has greatly over-assessed students. Even the old examination system was characterised by too much assessment. It’s what teachers do! We need to change how we measure success – do we value test results, or do we value real-world learning that leads to life-long skills in the workforce?


 

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Te Ara Whakamana is New Zealand’s largest forum dedicated to education and employment pathways and transitions.  Now in its sixth year, this event brings together educators from both secondary and tertiary sectors, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers to share good ideas and practices, and to be challenged by different perspectives.

Wellington, 28-29 June 2016

Go to:   https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/tearawhakamana2016 

Giving credit where credit is due

One of the key findings of the Pathways and Transition suite of programmes at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) is that students who otherwise might find school hard reveal considerable talent and ability to learn when an early experience of applied learning triggers some inactive, inert ability that has not been released. The experience at MIT in 2015 suggests that given the different right stimulus, different learners will respond.

In sum, the total credits gained in the 18 classes across 10 different technical disciplines averaged out at 18 credits per student from a course that was the equivalent of one day in school. Two things stand out.

First, Māori gained on average 17 credits per student, Pasifika 16 credits per student and “other”, 20 credits per student. So success seems to be not displaying the same levels of discrepant outcomes that we are working to improve, it is more equitable.

Secondly, literacy and numeracy taught in the context of these 10 is such that progress seems not to be the hurdle that schools would have us believe. This is also the experience of students at the MIT Tertiary High School. The programmes that are done have literacy and numeracy embedded in them – you learn the skills of literacy and numeracy in a context where they can be applied.

It was therefore disappointing to hear the radio interview with the Principal of a large school claiming that NCEA Literacy and Numeracy was not working. He called for a return to having dedicated literacy and numeracy teachers – that would, he claimed, get the system back on track.

This would of course be taking the teaching of literacy and numeracy back to the 1950s where the notion of teaching in a context of use had never occurred to any one. This also characterized schooling in the 1960s but it received a jolt in the 1975s with the publication of James Britton’s A Language for Life. It was from this that the notion of “language across the curriculum” gained ground. The argument was simple – every teacher uses languages therefore every teacher is a teacher of a language.

Reading in Secondary Schools was a real focus of the late 1970s and into the 1980s. This was a good thing – you learn to read by reading and you also learn to write by reading – schools dabbled with reading sessions for all in one way or another.

The University of Waikato back then and on into the 1980s did pioneering research in Science that showed that students succeeded in science largely to the extent that they could master the language of science.

The evidence at the Tertiary High School, and in Trades Academies suggests that only in a few instances is specialist intervention in language/English and numeracy/mathematics needed. Of course, as happens in education, as soon as something is described as if it is a specialist task, an aura grows around it and the job is handed over to the experts. In the Tertiary Sector all lower level courses have literacy and numeracy embedded in them and the tutors are required to be trained to do so.

Embedded literacy and numeracy trumps literacy and numeracy for no obvious reason every time.

The education system has put on Edward de Bono’s seven hats ad nauseum but it doesn’t show. That is what is coming to the surface in secondary/tertiary programmes and not only in New Zealand. Early access to applied learning (e.g. trades, STEM, etc) develops cognitive skills in learners who have not until then been excited by learning. In other words, they become academic. A group of students who enter the MIT Tertiary High School because they are making worrying progress at school in Year 10 discover through the NCEA / Technical integrated programme that they can learn, and that they want to learn, and they carry on to get NCEA Level 3 and University Entrance. That is a small group but the rest of the cohorts achieve Levels 1 and 2 with some ease (and a lot of sound teaching!).

The NCEA results (as reported by NZQA) underline this. The 2014 results were NCEA Level 1  100%, Level 2, 94.4%, and Level 3, 83.3%. The 2015 results are similar – L1 – 80%, L2- 87.9%, L3 – 100%. (Remember that the L3 groups are small). Most schools would feel pretty good with results like this!

But wait, there’s more folks!

In addition to NCEA achievement the THS students also get a range of technical qualifications at various levels simultaneously.

Now this is not a competition between secondary/tertiary programmes and schools. It is simply evidence that multiple pathways that see education/school delivered in different ways, will get different results. We simply have to develop a level of comfort about those pathways and celebrate that it offers to many students better levels of success than they would face in the conventional school setting.

Programmes such as the THS and Trades Academies are making a contribution to the outcomes for many and NCEA is a wonderful vehicle that allows students to bring their achievements together.

Did I mention that MIT through its STAR courses programme allowed students to gain 40,914 credits (that is an average of 12 per student)? It couldn’t happen without NCEA.


 

FINAL DAY FOR EARLY BIRD REGISTRATIONS

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Te Ara Whakamana is New Zealand’s largest forum dedicated to education and employment pathways and transitions.  Now in its sixth year, this event brings together educators from both secondary and tertiary sectors, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers to share good ideas and practices, and to be challenged by different perspectives.

Go to:   https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/tearawhakamana2016 

The results of collaboration are starting to have impact

 

The NCEA Level 2 struggle continues and while the newspapers report the incremental progress towards the BPS target of 85% of all 18 year old’s with NCEA Level 2 by the end of next year, it’s all been tougher then it should have been.

The secondary system by and large has had to make a huge effort to understand that the targets were never achievable if it was left to the schools themselves, it never was and while existing approaches to senior secondary schooling persist, never will be.

For a start there is a significant number of 18 year old’s who as 16 year-old young people had quit education, they were not even in the system. This statistic is stubborn and progress in reducing it is slow. The reason is not that schools get it wrong but that school is not right for many of that group. In other words it was the lack of flexibility that created over 30 years that situation and it will be flexibility that is our best change of addressing the issue.

But the focus remains solidly on those in the system and even among that group there are the disengaged. I have long promoted a view of disengagement that describes the traditional “drop-outs” as “physical disengagement“– they are not there.

There is also a group who is still in school that can be described as being the victims of “virtual disengagement.” They relatively consistently, have the appearance of doing all the right things, are not too much trouble, but for whom nothing much is happening. I know they are there because teachers tell me that they are.

Finally there are those who do all they are asked, achieve moderately well, who might even cobble together Level 1 and 2 in NCEA. However due to “unintended disengagement” the fruits of their labours have been a mess of academic potage that does not represent a basis of moving forward. Harvesting credits will achieve the BPS but it will not in itself create pathways.

I have raised the disengagement aspects of school performance because that is where ten years ago I started to work for change by first proposing, then developing and implementing New Zealand’s first Tertiary High School. This eased the way for the creation of trades academies, for the umbrella policy of Youth Guarantee and the relatively quick growth in the numbers of students who now rely not solely on schools for their outcomes but are lucky to be in schools that see that by working on collaboration with tertiary providers their students get better results both in terms of quality but also in terms of quantity. Their line of sight is extended through many of the programmes to real futures.

Last year the Manukau Institute of Technology gave opportunities for secondary students to gain in excess of 46,000 NCEA credits. This is not insignificant as a contribution to the BPS targets nor is it insignificant to the futures of young people.

More importantly, many of the students have through the experiences discovered that they can learn, that they want to learn and that school does provide an opportunity to do just that. The early access to applied education unleashes the brain in some learners to tackle more effectively the demands of what some persist in calling academic work. But the close to 4,000 secondary school students that MIT worked with last year were the lucky ones who go to schools where management sees opportunities where others see only risk to the roll numbers, management that puts the student at the forefront of planning rather than being blinkered by arguments about the budget, the staffing levels and so on.

One Principal who subscribes with energy to all the opportunities collaboration between secondary and tertiary now openly attributes the substantial growth of senior school numbers to that collaboration.

In the end, all the opportunities of secondary tertiary programmes are good for students, good for schools and good for the taxpayer.


 

taw16-logo250px

Te Ara Whakamana is New Zealand’s largest forum dedicated to education and employment pathways and transitions.  Now in its sixth year, this event brings together educators from both secondary and tertiary sectors, industry representatives, policymakers, and researchers to share good ideas and practices, and to be challenged by different perspectives.

Earlybird registrations are open now.

Go to:   https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/tearawhakamana2016 

Success most schools would die for!

There is a lovely story hidden in among the NCEA results and commentary (NZ Herald, April 9, 2015).

At first glance the appearance of Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) seems to be a mistake – what role does a tertiary education institution have in a list of NCEA results? And the results themselves seem remarkable: Level 1 – 100%, Level 2 – 91.8% and Level 3 – 83.3%.

In 2010, MIT opened the School of Secondary Tertiary Studies (Faculty of Education and Social Sciences) , also known as the Tertiary High School, the first of its kind in New Zealand.  This programme provides a pathway to success and employment for students who in Year 10 (age 14, Form 4) faced the prospect of little or no success.

A focus on the essential skills required in education and training is placed in a context where students simultaneously undertake their schooling (NCEA) and tertiary education focusing on career and professional qualifications across a wide range of disciplines. The claim is that the MIT Tertiary High School “does not take students out of school, it keeps them in school but they will not be at school.”

The results speak for themselves. Students in their second year of secondary schooling who faced failure and the risk of dropping out have a future in this different pathway characterised by success academically, gaining industry-recognised vocational qualifications and leaving with a high prospect of employment.

The New Zealand education system has unacceptable levels of disengaged students bringing great disadvantage to individuals, families and communities, and with a compounding negative impact on economic development and growth. There are no winners in this scenario.

Getting different results requires school systems to work in different ways and programmes such as the MIT Tertiary High School lead the way.

Earlier access to vocational education and training has been shown in many studies to be an effective means of re-engaging the students heading towards the point of dropping-out.

The world has changed and with it the nature of economies, the capacity of employers to take on unformed novice workers, and the demands of employment. Where once doing not so well in school was able to be compensated for by early employment with sympathetic employers, failing in school now is highly dangerous.

The education system has to pick up a challenge now that, despite the rhetoric, it has never faced in the past. It must now prepare each and every student to make a meaningful contribution to their family, their community and the country and young people who are employable.

Currently we fall well short of this and will continue to do so while we resist the reality that in order to get different results, the education system will have to work in different ways.

Not all students will succeed in a school. There should therefore be multiple pathways that open up for them to continue their education as distinct from their schooling in different settings.

The MIT Tertiary High School is one example of a pathway that takes students who have little hope of reaching high levels of achievement in the school pathway. It is not a better pathway per se but it is a different pathway and for those who succeed because of it, a far better pathway.

Opening the Tertiary High School in 2010 required legislative changes for students to be enrolled at both a school and a tertiary institution, for funding from both sectors to be used, for the duty of care to be shared between providers, and for students under the age of 16 to be educated in a place that is not designated as a school.

There is now no impediment to creating new pathways for students who do not feature in the NCEA success rates.

The NCEA results of the MIT Tertiary High School form one piece of evidence that working differently can bring different results. Failure to accept this is simply to deny the opportunities and the results that come from working differently to young people who face becoming yet another grim statistic of failure.

Stuart Middleton is Director of the Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways at Manukau Institute of Technology.

 

 

Talk-ED: Never mind the warmth, feel the quality

  

They say that if a hen starts eating eggs then there really is no future for the bird.  It is a behaviour that will never go away.

I feel much the same with newspapers and NCEA.

The weekend paper from Fairfax set out to explore NCEA.  I had been involved in several discussions with them.  This attempt was to be different.  A web site would accompany the story that gave good information and enabled parents to see just where they stood in school performance.  It sounded promising.

I have long felt positive towards the Australia site (www.myschool.edu.au) which sets out to do much the same thing.  Using the NAPLAN (National Assessment Plan for Literacy and Numeracy – their equivalent tool to the National Standards here), the site offers plenty of information about school performance with comparisons between groups of schools.  Parents and caregivers are able to look at their child’s assessments and relate it to others.  There are in some places in Australia some rules around the use of such information.  Invidious comparisons are frowned on and attempts to create league tables discouraged.  Australia supplies a lot of information to its communities.

But still there are best schools and worse schools. In fact the Australian experience tells us that there is a danger in discrediting a group of schools (in their case the public system) with the result that parent opinion swings heavily against them.  I have many times been told by parents in Australia that “Of course the public schools are rubbish!”

Well that is quite clearly not the case.  There are many excellent public schools in Australia just as there are in New Zealand.  The students in our state schools have the opportunity, by and large, to succeed and many do.  The view that decile ratings relate to school performance is misguided and unhelpful.  A significant number of students who constitute to the long tail of disadvantage that contributes to New Zealand’s low ranking in social equity measures are actually in schools where the decile rating is not low and where the schools have something of a look of success about them.

What causes the angst in all this is really a view of what kind of group you would like to children to mix with.  Many parents simply demonstrate confidence in the local school and that is where the family goes.  Bravo to them, I say.  What a refreshing little story in the midst of the series about poaching among Auckland schools for the best young sportspeople.  Keven Mealamu showed talent early and the moneyed schools started hovering around.  He turned them all down and stayed put at his local school.  Keiran Read returned to his suburban high school to complete his secondary schooling after a year in another school that had offered him a deal.

We need more stories like this.  We need champions for the local school where a sense of belonging to a community can provide a supportive environment within which young people grow up, and play and make friends.  Instead we have battalions of urban tanks taking young people to distant schools and at the weekends to commercial premises where playgrounds have been set up to cater for those who have the entrance fee.  How bizarre!

It really all comes down to wanting children to mix with the right sort of people. That is what drives the housing frenzy based around school zones. That is what drives the obsession with this school rather than that school.  It whips up the need not to know how an individual is progressing but rather how the school compares.  People are usually not too open about this and cloak the issue with arguments about quality of education, learning opportunities etc.  We are seeing in this a shift from the kind of egalitarianism that used to be a hallmark of our communities.  Yes, there has always been difference among people but this was matched by higher levels of tolerance and mixing than we see now.

I fear that we are becoming intolerant of others, suspicious of difference, and losing sight of key values.  It has not had nor will it have a positive effect on the education system.

 

 

Talk-ED: Simple Things That Work

 

Written by Marilyn Gwilliam, Principal, Papatoetoe Central School

 

We all know about keeping it simple (stupid) and in these somewhat complex times, it feels like a good way to go.

For those of us working in schools, we often reflect on what is working and what needs to change.  The simple solutions often  feel like the right solutions.

In the early years of schooling, we know that effective early childhood education usually ensures a positive transition to the more formal learning of the school classroom.  We know how an early intervention especially in year 1 and 2 can support students who struggle with their early learning.

We know that if this is an individual programme, or a programme involving just a small group of children, there is often a lot of  additional progress made as the teaching can be tailored to the specific learning needs of the children concerned. 

It can be as simple as that and I can’t think of any primary school principals who wouldn’t welcome the funding to employ teachers to implement a range of individual and small group instructional programmes in their schools.  We know that they work.

Recently on “Campbell Live” there was a refreshing story located in Auckland about a group of impressive young men from St Peter’s College in Epsom.  In their discretionary time, they assist young students with their reading at St Therese School in Three Kings. 

The teacher who coordinates this support programme commented that the regular individual assistance really helps to improve the children’s reading capabilities. The young men described their pride and satisfaction in contributing to the programme.   It struck me how simple and effective the programme is with no cost involved at all.

At our school, a group of granny helpers have supported one of our teachers for 16 years.  These women come to our school weekly and work with individual students throughout the year.  Like at St Therese School, we see exciting improvements in reading achievement.  The helpers work with the same young students regularly over the year, they get to know them really well and together, they ultimately share the buzz of success.

I know that programmes like these operate in many many schools up and down the country.  The young children involved enjoy success very early in their schooling.  Once their basic reading and maths skills in particular are established, we see this success building on yet even more success.  In each of these examples of a simple programme, there is no cost involved and there is plenty of evidence that they work. 

Imagine the outcomes if our schools were resourced in our MOE assured staffing that enabled us to employ additional staffing for specific learning support in the early years.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could ensure that each and every student who needed a personalised early learning intervention was assured of this?  And wouldn’t it be great if the intervention could be sustained, if required?

One of this government’s Better Public Services programme targets is 85% of 18 year olds achieving NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification in 2017.  Maybe the government would be better placed to achieve this if schools were given additional resourcing to implement early intervention programmes for the students that required them?

It doesn’t seem stupid to keep it simple.

 

Pathways-ED: The Tangled Web we Weave!

 

There is less than meets the eye with the series the NZ Herald has published this week on NCEA Schools under a claim that it tells us how well our schools are performing.

The results cannot be taken at face value for a number of reasons.

First, the figures presented are simply percentages of those who participated in NCEA at the level deemed appropriate for that year. They do not include those who drop out of school, those who are not entered by the schools, those who do not finish the year and so on.

The only true measure of success for education organisations is the percentage of the cohort who succeed. So the figures that we need for school success in 2011 are the percentages of the respective cohorts (2007, 2008, 2009) who succeeded. But even these figures are distorted by those who do accumulate enough credit to claim success at a level over two or three years. And further distorted by the transience that is a feature of schools. The cohort Year 13 will have quite a proportion of students who were not in the 2007 cohort.

So a national measure might be the way to get a true picture of our schools performance as a system. These are the figures:

These are the 2010 figures that are the actual performance of the cohort (i.e. for the group that started secondary school in 2006) in NCEA.

At the end of Year 13 NZ students with NCEA Level 2:

  •        NZ European                             68%             
  •        Asian                                          74% 
  •        Maori                                          43%
  •        Pacific                                        58%

 At the end of Year 13 NZ students with NCEA Level 3: 

  •        NZ European                             42%             
  •        Asian                                          54% 
  •        Maori                                          17%
  •        Pacific                                        24%

And these statistics raise the second issue. The success and/ failure in NCEA is no reflection of equity in our community. Our schools are not bringing students through to meet levels where they have a basis for going forward with education and training. The Herald tables don’t tell us this.

Nor do the league tables tell us about the gaps that exist. For instance, in one area of Auckland the school figures look pretty good with a wide range of results mostly above 65% and liberally sprinkled with 70+ and even 80+ percentages. Well done, I say. But as was always the case with the old School Certificate system, success masked failure.

But a measure of the same area shows that at age 15 there are, in round figures, 1,500 learners in the area. At Age 17 this group is reduced to around 700 and at Age 19 there are only 400 left. This level of disengagement from education and training will always be hidden in the league tables as they have been presented.

The third fallacy that the tables perpetrate is the view that NCEA in itself represents an achievement. NCEA is simply on the way to something else and it is that something else, the post-secondary qualification, that becomes the basis of success in employment and in most respects, life and how are we going in this.

I did a little exercise in 2010 that took 100 babies born in 2010 and applied all the success profiles that we have for the different ethnic groups in the baby cohort and asked “How many will have a post-secondary qualification in 2033 – a generous timeframe. I concluded that 29% was the answer. Now this was not an elegant statistical exercise but some who knew much better concluded that the result “looked about right”.

And so to the fourth fallacy. There are quite a few students, just how many is not fully understood but it could be quite a large group, who get the equivalent of NCEA Level 2 through other pathways – foundation and bridging programmes in tertiary education, courses and qualifications from private providers and so on. Getting a more accurate picture of performance is going to be critical.

Because the Better Public Service Goal of the Government is a brave target – 85% of all 18 year olds having NCEA Level 2 (or its equivalent) by 2017. And this is a target to be interpreted in a way that does not allow for the poor performance of some groups of learners to be obscured by the excellent performance of others.

But the NZ Herald and I imagine quite a few in the community and I also imagine some schools will have either been tickled pink or turned green with envy at the whole rather meaningless exercise.

Alexander Pope had the measure of all this:

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave 
 When first we practice to deceive!”

 

 

Pathways-ED: Is "most" good enough?

 

Auckland as a city has an ambition to be the world’s most liveable city, it’s something of an organising principle for aligning the efforts, goals and direction of this newly created entity.

One of the outward signs of this is the publication of a “Scorecard” that rates progress on a number of measures. In education the measure is the number of students in schools that attain NCEA Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy.

There are a number of issues with this.

First, it takes no account of those who are not in the NCEA net. We know that 21% of 16 year olds have already left school and are most likely not to have even attempted NCEA. The failure to take account of cohort measures continues to mislead us in our assessment of progress. That is why I presume the Government settled on “all 18 year olds” as the group that would be measured for the Better Public Service Goals.

Secondly, the performance is very unevenly reflected in the various ways that results can be diced. Along ethnic lines there are still worrying differences between Pakeha students and those who are from Maori and Pacific Island communities. Auckland carries a responsibility for a very significant number of young Maori and Pacific students, a greater proportion than other cities and global measures do not reflect progress when it occurs when they are reported as one measure. That is why I presume the Government settled on the principle with its Better Public Service Goal –  85% of all 18 years old having NCEA Level 2 (or its equivalent) – and stating clearly that the target would apply to each and every group, Maori, Pacific, Special Needs, Migrant, Pakeha, Rural, City and so on.

Thirdly, the Scorecard is not bound by target or time; it simply reflects what is called progress. But progress to where and in what timeframe? How will we know when the education system is performing well and contributing what is expected of it to the world’s most liveable city goal? Knowing simply that we are “getting better” by small increments” has a feel good factor but in reality might be lagging behind the pace of improvement needed. That is why I presume the Government settled on establishing 2017 as the point at which the Better Public Service Goal should be met.

Now the explanation given in the Scorecard is that NCEA Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy is “the equivalent of School Certificate”. Well, it is certainly not. Whether you use the old SC (200/400 in your best four subjects including English) or the later version (single subject passes), NCEA Level 1 Literacy or Numeracy nowhere near equates to neither. No one is going to burst onto the world of work or into a career with that as their qualification.

The irony of all this is that the Auckland Council somewhat led the way in settling on NCEA Level 2 as a sensible goal. That is because it reflects what can be considered as a satisfactory measure of a level of success at school. But even NCEA Level 2 is meaningful only to the extent that it is used as a foundation on which a post-secondary school qualification is gained. Auckland Council “joined the dots” in its Auckland Plan and in its Economic Development Policy ahead of the Government settling on its Better Public Service Goals. And both were right to do so.

I have long promoted the notion of “joining the dots” – access to early childhood education, NCEA Level 2 and a postsecondary qualification. All here are essential markers on the pathway to a secure future. Hon Nick Smith, then Minister of Local Government, in the last days of his tenure of this position, criticised the Auckland Plan for having such goals. Soon after we were to see the Government similarly “join the dots” in the Better Public Service Goals.

A seamless progression along the pathways of education at the pace that sees all students hitting the NCEA Level 2 (or its equivalent) marker by about the age of 18 years will lead to an educated and knowledgeable city. And a city that is educated and knowledgeable is likely to become a very liveable city because it will have opportunities for employment, quality democratic processes, vibrant art and culture features with participation, leisure and sport opportunities. Above all it will have a performing economy with growth that will sustain now over a third of the population of New Zealand.

Where you place the target tends to be about where the arrow goes. Let’s stick to worthy targets.