A Nice Clear Educational Approach

NCEA this week started its external examinations in a collaborative spirit that has been something of a hallmark over the past two years. Students have had various concessions that acknowledge that once again this has been an unusual year – additional credits, extensions to some of the deadlines, adjustment to the external examination timetable and so on. 

It has always been the case that those in charge of the end-of-year students assessment experiences will do in a humane manner – which simply treat the students fairly both in the previous examination system (still practised by a few) and the newer NCEA standards based assessment. There have always been processes and procedures to see that when something goes wrong, students are treated fairly and are not punished especially when the blame for something is not their fault – and things do happen! In the days of external examinations for UE and for Bursary I was called on in my role as Chief Examiner to arbitrate when some event or action would have resulted in a student being treated unfairly. Such interventions usually involved the school, the NZQA people and the Examiners.

It is a little disappointing for some of the reports of this year’s arrangements to be tainted a little in a couple of media stories to imply that the ability to choose the higher mark between that achieved by the student in work completed under unusual Covid conditions and that achieved by sitting an external examination is somehow dodgy. This approach is greatly acceptable in my understanding of standards-based assessment, the goal is to assess whether the student can demonstrate their understanding of requirements of a standard and allowing for multiple attempts to do just that is totally proper.

It mirrors the assessments for a NZ Drivers Licence with its multiple permissible attempts to reach the requisite standard. As a Justice of the Peace, I sit a test that accredits me as a Justice of the Peace that is an “Accredited Justice”. In fact, that test has built into it a process for re-sitting any parts which were not met in the original test. This is good assessment process. 

The finer adjustment made for NCEA, further awarding a level marks performance as passes with “Achieved,” “Merit,”or “Excellence” raises an issue and that is while the names of the levels are clear, the point at which a pass moves, for instance, from “achieved” to “Merit” or from “Merit to “Excellence” difficult to pinpoint. Lets call this the NAME sequence.

The same issue in a different context: A Rugby referee is required to control three movements in order to get a scrum going – bending down, getting grip on the row ahead, and finally, full tilt engagement with the opposing side.  A decade or so ago the mantra for getting a scrum under way was changed “Crouch” “Touch” (pause) “En-gage”. But this still led to scappy scrums especially with scum getting into their business too early. I contend that the root cause was the two-syllable word “en-gage” which was hopeless and sloppy as a command. They changed the commands to “Crouch!” “Bind” and “Set” with its sharp crack of a word to finally get the scrum under way (which seemed to work well for the Irish and the French). The difference between “engage” and “set” is clear.

It is a wonderful truth that in the English Language words are supple and they don’t occupy a sharp point but rather share a continuum with other words – “Not Achieved” moves into “Achieved” moves into “Merit” moves into “Excellence” which completes the cycle. Each word commands a space in meaning which rubs up against and even on to some of the space fits neighbours, above and below. 

There is never going to be pin-point precision with the NAME sequence. Language doesn’t work like that. The solution is perhaps to have a “Not Achieved / “Achieved” rubric – the AA sequence.  “Engage” was inappropriate for scrums – it was change it to “Set”. The NAME sequence is similarly unfit for purpose – change it to Not Achieved/Achieved. This would meet the requirements of the a standards-based assessment regime.

The use of the NAME sequence was introduced to get NCEA accepted by examinations that had 100 points in the sequence and exams were produced that could differentiate between each of the 100 points – I think not!

Covid – It’s not just us

It was a small In Memoriam notice tucked away in the Family Notices section of the NZ Herald  on the morning of 12 November this year that caught my eye….

AH CHEE

Choi-Mei (nee Lum)

Of Newmarket

Passed  away on  12 November

1918 of Spanish influenza. Born

1888 in Canton, beloved wife etc…….

……and so continued a tribute from a family to a clearly loved Mother.

My Grand-Father also passed away in 1918, another victim of the Spanish Influenza. Herbert (Bert) Samuel Cameron was 62 years of age and was a Railway Guard who worked at Helensville and Frankton Junction. My mother, his only daughter, would talk lovingly and at some length about her father. He was a talented man who painted quite passable pictures in oil, he wrote long letters to family and friends in rhyming verse in the style of the Australian verse tradition. His death left a family of a widow, two sons and a daughter.

Mum also spoke of the horror of his passing, the steady loss of ability for him to take food and the reliance on a piece of hose pipe to quench a thirst. Of course, this was around the end of World War One, people were coping with more than just an epidemic. 100.000 men had been sent overseas and 16,700 were killed in the war. The epidemic took a further 5,516. But as one commentator described “Mortality in war and epidemic fostered a caring side of NZ Society. The country respected hard work, upheld law and order and practised the tenet charity began at home and believed that kindness matter.

There was also another story that was related to us on many occasions. A young nurse, Hilda Ross, was a regular visitor to the Cameron house to administer aid to the epidemic ill. She would bring quantities of food to help the family in addition to the medical duties she attended to. Until the day  my mother died she spoke of the humane and heroic patience that Hilda Ross displayed. She was destined to later stand for parliament and was the first women Minister in the first National Cabinet.

The cures then seem primitive by our standards now with vaccinations, and hospital care. Being lined up in the street to have a disinfectant sprayed into your mouth and down your throat.

Some questions. Who will emerge from the community as heroes in this epidemic? When snapshot descriptions of the values and qualities shown are crafted what will those questions and values be? How will sectors stand up and be measured? And will charity be seen to have started at home and did kindness matter?

I was reminded that a world epidemic, Canton or Frankton – it’s grief across the globe.

Mr Moleskine and Me

I had been in Samoa in 2008 and, business finished, we were waiting at the Market in Savai’i for the ferry to take us back to Upolo when my phone rang. It was a one of the private secretaries for Rt Hon Helen Clark. He advised me that in a week’s time she would be announcing that the government was making a grant of $1,000,000 for the development of the Tertiary High School. 

“OK” I thought, it looks as if it is all going ahead for an exciting development. I had better start keeping good notes. I resolved that I would buy a Moleskine Notebook when I got back home. Well, 27 Moleskine notebooks and 23 years later I cleaned out the cupboard and lined them up in order. Of course, you start thumbing through them and being distracted from the reason I had gone to the cupboard in the first place.

The first entry that in the first notebook was a set of notes for what looks like at talk to be given to a 3UA meeting on the state of technical education. I started by claiming, and remember this was 2008, that we had lost a quarter of a century of opportunity and the futures of young people had been hit hard by the lost sense of responsibility that business once had for their involvement in the training and education of young people into the trades. Yes, some of it had been informal – “Yes lad, go and sit over there with TED and he will show you the ropes!” But the inducting of young people was often taken more seriously and was an effective transition into more formal education and training. Night school was also key component in this but as polytechnics opened the schools tended to drop industrial arts and night schools became recreational – important as that was the impact of technical education migrating to the daylight meant that quite a number especially of young people and older people looking to change jobs were denied the opportunity to both earn and learn.

It all comes back to me now as I write, this was a talk to the Remuera Branch of the University of the Third Age. I recall that I was into a riff on unintended consequences. By the mid-seventies the David Lange’s government was dismantling the government institutions that happened to contribute strongly to technical and vocational areas – NZ Railways, the Post Office, the Ministry of Works, the Power Boards, – at that point in the meeting, Hon. Bob Tizard interrupted me to claim that 80% of the apprenticeships were lost in that political process. And he reminded me that the Māori Trades Training which had been so successful was also had been disappearing.

Back in the 1980’s I was teaching trainees to teach and part of my responsibility was to teach 30 woodwork teachers and 30 metalwork teachers – yes, it seems that engagement with learners at a lower level had a demand still in the schools and I can vouch that the polytechnics were teaching general courses. I taught an AAVA a compulsory course in which everyone has to produces a report on the “rip-snorter saw”. Streams of secondary students heading into technical and vocational pathways had got a great start to their apprenticeship! 

These were halcyon for entry into trades. I taught at Papatoetoe near the Otahuhu Railway Workshops. In the 1970’s they would each year be recruiting 60 apprentices from the two local secondary schools.

Now another new future is about to emerge as Pukenga picks up the reigns of responsibility for Technical and Vocational Training in a coordinated national framework, in a spirit of collaboration rather than competition, in harmony with the industries that polytechnic education serves and the communities it owes its living to. If this doesn’t come to pass, the back-up for change is the deadline for providers to improve outcomes for Māori and Pasifika – ten years and, I must say, it is a jolly generous timeframe. Go Now and Go Hard, I wish I could remember who it was that said this!

Getting back to school: But also to a different place

There are mixed emotions for students around generating the enthusiasm that they need to return to school. On the one hand lessons at home have lost some of the gloss. It is hard for teachers to generate yet another and another wave of exciting distance activities and for parents and caregivers to exude the energy that teachers daily show. On the other hand, students I come across express a wide range of willingness and eagerness to get back to school – to see friends and familiar teachers.

There is also an overlay of concern coming from parents and caregivers, worries about their younger ones “missing their learning”.  I can understand that at a general level, but it is a little harder to know what they mean when you drill down. Is it specific to learning maths and numeracy? Or is it a feeling that school is where the young ones should be, and they aren’t there!

It is ironic that if it is this latter sentiment when you see the slide that attendance data has taken steadily downwards for quite a few years now. I saw some data recently that painted a clear picture of a decline in attendance across the board – all deciles shifting around with some lift in the higher decile schools (although still a long way from levels that would satisfy a highly performing schooling system) to a continuation of the slow but steady decline in attendance in the lower decile schools.

This is very troubling because it is this very lower-level slice of the population that arguably needs the most help in providing students with the tools that will see them performing well in their lives. It is in lifting performance in the lower decile schools that the entire education system will gradually pull itself up to the level of the education systems we are envious of.

But education seems to shy away from realising the need to lift performance – I am indeed pleased that doctors, dentists, and motor- mechanics can adopt attitudes that are based on sentiments such as “Hey, this isn’t good! Let’s do what we need to do and can do to sort it out!” There are several things that that can be done easily.

  • School lunches for everyone in lower decile schools is a no brainer as they say. Good nutrition leads to so many other good outcomes. 
  • The curriculum needs to be trimmed back to the essential skills that lead to high skills – this does not have to be a morbid procession of dullness. And the critical skills will make learning (and teaching) more enjoyable. Education should be a time of discovery and the thrills that come with achievement rather than glimpses of the mystery envelope.
  • Parents and caregivers must be included in the mix – there are things that can be done to help those who look after the young ones – we need learning communities that utilise the skills in those communities and harness the elements in the community to be involved – the churches, the marae, the community centres, older students helping younger ones, and everyone utilising the skills and knowledge that they carry with them.

It is going to take some effort for schools when they are asked to get the students back and into gear. This will require unenviable effort. But it will be worth it – the last thing we want to see is to have even more students opt out of what is not only the only road to a future but is in fact, a requirement under law.

Ten Years: Opportunity or sentence

NEWS FLASH

11 October 2021

“Tertiary education institutions have been given ten years to address the differences in the levels of academic outcomes for Māori and Pacific students.”

Tertiary Education Commission

11 October 2021

Ten years is a very long time. Calculate the numbers of Māori and Pasifika students who face the provision of programmes that have been declared as failing in terms of equity and therefore access to a sound tertiary programme. Ten cohorts of students. Pukenga will have to respond to these challenges immediately and, I would have thought, well within the ten-year deadline.

Ten years is a very long time. And those who have been keen to see progress with these priority learner groups are disappointed that some excellent educators had not been met with widespread support and sustained focus over the past decades that are required action to change the pedagogical skillsets and frameworks were clearly failing.

Six times ten years is a much longer time and over that time I have seen the a stream of Māori educators bring their wisdom and guidance to this issue of equity and access in higher education education but it seems not to have been influential to the extent that is needed. Sir Mason Durie with his conceptual framework of Te Whare Tapa Wha and the role of taha tinana, taha hinengaro, taha wairua and taha whanau has over many years influenced those who he has reached out to. Russell Bishop brought his Te Kotahitanga Programme worked over a wide belt of tertiary teachers with his emphasis on effective and culturally responsive pedagogy. Ranginui Walker, Rose Pere, Manuka Henare,…….  a long list supplemented by many dozens of Māori teachers and lecturers who have worked hard, often without effective support, in their institutions. Seemingly the problem beats the process of change and that means that this time the changes must be understood and bedded firmly into everyone’s professional psyche, not just the few in each tertiary institution charged with “doing something about Māori and Pasifika outcomes”.

Interestingly, ten years ago saw the establishment of the first Tertiary High School which was the result of my observation that as much as tertiary institutions work honestly and with good intent the statistics of educational outcomes remained stubbornly resistant to change. The structure of schooling was not serving priority learners well with the persistently shaky transitions, unclear pathways, and half-hearted preparation for further education. This led to the situation in the 1970s and 1980s of+ an education system that was performing to a high standard, comparable to the best of overseas systems, at the top but a tough tussle of failure in the lower third of the students where the performance of our students was raising questions and troubled many in the community who were critical of the levels not being achieved. Disengagement was rife.

But change was made, dual enrolment was found to be possible, funding issues were overcome (using funding differently) and the education law of the land changed to make. These changes were not only made the tertiary high school model possible but also created an environment in which trade academies were possible. In the past decade the Tertiary High School has offered a stable and successful pathway to tertiary qualifications for approximately 1,500 students while trades academies, a collaborative effort between secondary schools and polytechnics, have reached out to 46,000 students who are engaged in secure pathways to secondary qualifications and subsequently tertiary qualifications and employment.

This time around change can and must must be made. Not the situation where, in Charles Payne’s view[1] the hiss and the roar, “So much Reform, So little change!”  Ōritetanga is a start which must now be spread and secured across the sector! 

___________________________

 Charles Payne (2010), SO MUCH REFORM, so little change, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge Ma.

Maths, it all adds up to a muddle

About a year ago I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the NZ Herald with a comment on the then announced membership of a Working Group that would prepare the report for the Royal Society Te Aparangi on the teaching and learning of Mathematics in our schools. I asked back then how a set of leaders in Mathematics Education could come to the kinds of conclusions that would bring about change for the better, when they have been the leaders that have taken mathematics to the state it is in.

A year later and a report appears, and my misgivings have not been confirmed and I apologise for that.   But this is not a report that can be ignored! 

The Chairman of the group that has produced this report, Pangarau Mathematics and Tuanga Statistics in Aotearoa New Zealand, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Gaven Martin, is reported to describe the teaching of mathematics as a “mess”. But it gets worse. Reports state that “gaps were widening between rich and poor”, that there is “nothing intrinsic in the curriculum that has led to this situation (but on the other hand there was “nothing challenging in our curriculum by international standard).” In short students should be doing better and indeed must do better. The report chair voiced a fear that there is not a political appetite to make the changes recommended.

Those recommendations that need to be addressed are:

  • Attending to students falling further behind in the curriculum. Does it take an experts group to suggest that this should happen? Why do we have schools?
  • Attend to the matter of teacher maths knowledge and how they teach maths.
  • Leadership from the Ministry of Education instead of just leaving teachers to fend for themselves! I kid you not.
  • And perhaps the scariest of all – “The way maths education is attended to can only increase inequity.”

I am appalled that not only can these opinions of an expert group have a ring of truth, but also that it is a damning condemnation of the state of a critical subject that no doubt children have an expectation they are preparing for life and their parents simply have the right to know that this is being done and being done well. Does this call for a wider review? If Maths – a “gatekeeper” subject – is like this, what assurances are there about other subjects? If it wouldn’t take time that we cannot afford, it is material for a Curriculum Review.

Other reports have said much the same thing about a variety of issues. But there simply seems to be a lack somewhere of willingness to tackle the issues. Or perhaps it is a case of what G.K. Chesterton talked about when he argued that “it isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.”

The expert group that has written this report is to be congratulated and the leader, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Gaven Martin and his team are to be thanked for the frank and unpalatable conclusions. He is right: “It’s a goddamn mess, and things are not getting better. And the consequences are pretty horrific, so something has to be done!”

The least we should expect is a clear response from the Ministry of Education.

Walls that stymie progress.

Forced stay at home regimes might look like a bit of a punishment but I prefer to see it as an opportunity. I am currently working towards a project the sees me going through papers and books stored in boxes and ignored over the past couple of years. This is proving to be quite a stop/go process. It is very easy that a paper one has enjoyed personally and previously catches the eye and half an hour later you are focussing on that paper to the exclusion of the rest. The same with books that might have been, in all -honesty, skimmed and put aside. Its starts with a flick-through that stops with a feeling that there is a chapter that demands closer attention.

One such small book in which Sir Kenneth Baker[1] (a.k.a. Lord Baker of Dorking) brings together a set of educators that subscribe Sir Kenneth’s view that the solution to raising educational outcome would be achieved by a focus on the age group 14-years to 19-years, challenging the obsession (in England) on the primary/secondary transition at age 11+ and the curriculum offered between that point and age 16-years when students leave school prepared for very little it seems.

One of his oft-quoted points made when asked why 14-19 and the answer is: “well, 11-years is too early and 16-years is too late.” In short, our current major transitions might not be serving students’ learning effectively.

His book is a collection of reflection from an international set of educators engaged in putting effort into creating effective vocational and technical education for the target group. A contribution from Alan Smithers[2] challenge the plausible arguments about education. 

A selection of his views.

“Take the sweeping generalisation that academic courses keep options open and vocational course close them down. While it is true that vocational courses have a specific purpose, it is good courses whatever stripe that that enhance opportunities and poor courses that restrict them.”

“Truancy has increased fivefold from Years 7 to 11!”

“If the assumption is that young people do not know what they are good at, what they like and what they want to do after nine years of required school attendance, then the quality of that education has to be questioned.”

It seems to me that the sectors we use these days ate arbitrary, not necessarily productive and based on premises lost in the mists of time. They have lost their purpose and do not serve students well.

There are many different structures used throughout the world – have we ever challenged the placement of sector boundaries in New Zealand?

More on this later, it’s back to the boxes for me!

  1.  Baker, Sir Kenneth, (2013), 14-19 A New Vision for Secondary Education, Bloomsbury Academic, London/New York.
  2.  Alan Smithers is Professor at Buckingham University and is deeply engaged with a variety of reports for the UK Government relating to education.

Catalogue of Change

Covid has seen New Zealand working in ways that are new, testing and perhaps not as temporary as we might like to think. 

Schooling

It is inevitable that the question of whether to shift the holidays to compensate and recognise that the students have missed a lot of term time thanks to Covid will always be a bit controversial. It is one of the times when it seems to me that all the positions taken around this issue have merit. I might have thought that the Boards of Trustees could contribute to this discussion.

In the history of New Zealand education there were considerable times when there were breaks in children being at school, often this was on a regional basis rather than the whole country and lessons were one way or another continued at home. The Correspondence School was prominent in the help given to teachers and schools at that time and many students, now much older, recall with pleasure the arrival and the departure of the canvas satchels in which the lessons were dispatched and collected on a weekly basis during the period when schools were closed. Those who once were young speak of the delight in getting the satchel which the teachers distributed and collected.

But that was then, this is now and things have changed.

Coffee #2 and Impact

I was amused the other day to hear a coffee shop owner in Wellington adamantly stating that it is time public servants “got back to work” so that they could keep coffee shops operating. As much as I realise that getting the business flowing again is important, the thought that people are only working when they “get back to work” ignores the fact that they are “back at work” and it is called working from home.

There have been some quite clear indications that there will be a number – some say 15% – who will not return to the coffee shop but continue to work from home. This was once thought to be difficult to control but it seems to have proved easier than we might have predicted. MBIE was reported last week to have 50% of its workforce doing their job at home. Many of those who are working at home will not “return to work” but remain being at home, perhaps playing role in their young children and older youth education, and drinking their home-made coffee!

Access to Goods and Services

My computer ink arrived the day after I ordered it, brought to me by a courier – who would have thought?

Finally, Tertiary Education responds

Tertiary education has long spoken of distance learning and flexible access to learning. The change to on-line learning is widespread in many of the tertiary education institutions. These are changes that will be difficult to turn back from, just as it will be with schooling as it is at home, and keeping coffee shops working but at a scale and number that is driven by customers rather than custom, and with tertiary education increasingly abandoning requiring students to gather in a certain place at a certain time to learn. Once issues of access and equity to post-secondary education and training are solved there will be great advances in tertiary education. Change in education does not come easily and perhaps not in business and commerce.  But when change happens we should be wise enough to hang on to the best of it.

Covid or Coffee? The Lowdown on Lockdown

Where did this mania for drinking coffee come from! It seems to be to the middle classes and the rich what Kentucky Fried is to the great unwashed. It’s nuts. Well. Quite literally.

What has happened to New Zealand when we experience a lock-down of a week and that culminates in countless people revealing that their biggest, most passionate wish when they come out of lock-down where they have enjoyed many good thing such as food as fine as they can cook, drinks to whet their whistle and the companionship of a bubble which cis as good as those in it, is to have a coffee. They strut outside the coffee shops holding their prized coffee out front as if it is some piece of golden, religious paraphernalia and show smiles that dangerously run the risk of damage to their faces. They Oooohhh, they Aaaahhhh and assure us that they have been on tenterhooks just waiting for release to have their first coffee and slyly admit that they have been waiting for this first coffee, it is to them a kind of Waiting for Godot experience.

The coffee culture has been a somewhat fast development in New Zealand culture, and I blame the invention of the take-away cup. It alone revolutionised the purchase of coffee to take with you whatever you are doing and wherever you are going. It has the power to influence the design of motor vehicles with the creation of those round spaces with have an opening with the ability to keep your precious cargo safe. I read the other day that electric cars will in time be fitted with AMCM capability. These small Auto-Mobile-Coffee-Machines will keep you supplied with the best coffee available long after you run out of power through a small solar panel on the back of the mirror.

I am a veteran of coffee drinking as my parents back in the 1950s served coffee made with chicory. Mr Google tells me that Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the daisy family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink…. In the 21st century, inulin, an extract from chicory root, has been used in food manufacturing as a sweetener and source of dietary fibre and the essence was used to make coffee.” 

Be warned, coffee beans are said to be very expensive soon and Chicory Essence could well make a comeback. If you have read the description above it is certainly a talented plant with more uses than simply making coffee.

My Mum must have known a thing or two because we didn’t know anyone else who drank it! And this information comes as a surprise as I thought over all those years and until now that Essence of Chicory was made from industrial waste such was the putrid taste which we tolerated as the drinking of “coffee” was considered a treat.

But on reflection I rate this coffee thing and its drinkers ahead of the untold numbers who crave for and descend on the house of Colonel Sunders and others to feast on take-aways which I note are now known as take- outs! There is no doubt that we are becoming known for our culinary practices. 

Whatever happened to Dinner Parties, shared picnics under the trees at the lake, and drinks at five? And by the way, my favourite coffee at the moment is an Americano!

Still the Bogey of Assessment prevails

It was interesting when several vox pop items in the television were news interviews of family groups about the impact on students as the lockdown prevailed. Concerned parents and the students themselves expressed concern at the impact on their progress and ability to complete the course if this lockdown went on and on and on.

They were especially talking about NCEA and it could be that their concerns were able to be softened. I was particularly interested that when they talked about the disruption to NCEA they used the old language of the assessment regime, and I can understand why that happens. I find that the older community members with teenage students don’t quite understand the difference between norm-referenced assessment – the old examinations, the School Certificate Examination, Sixth Form Certificate, and Bursary Examinations – and the Standards-Based assessment of NCEA.

The New Zealand Drivers Test is also standards-based and there are some features that what we know we could understand by thinking about standards -based assessment and the issues raised if the NZ Driver’s License on a norm referencing basis. It would go something like this.

All candidates for a licence test would have to present themselves on a single designated day to sit the test. Imagine the chaotic scenes were that attempted. 

Of course, with the sort of number being tested there could not be practical test. Rather it would be a theory test. No-one would get to drive a car for the test but would have to answer questions about driving. 

In the best of norm-reference exams the results would be massaged to fit a pre-determined pattern. About half would pass and get their license. Half would get their licence – both rather unpalatable issues when you think about it!

The skills of driving would be separated in topics: rules of the road, being an observant driver, parking the car, managing a trailer, speed limits, driving in lanes, and so on. But asking questions about each element of bring a driver would in no way be a guide as to the performance of a driver when they had to consider demonstrating all the skills simultaneously and in situation where there were drivers on the road each of various levels of competence.

Based on the theoretical and the distribution of marks some drivers would be deemed to be Class A, others Class B, still others Class C.  Perhaps the rest would be BO Class (i.e., Bicycle Only

The old examinations system worked exactly as this bizarre and almost unbelievably stupid set of assessment procedure that we have applied to the Driver’s License ex it was applied to real subjects about which the demonstration of competence and knowledge and skills was determined by 1 examination.

But the New Zealand world of assessment has changed. NCEA does not operate like an examination. The key differences are:

  • Students know full well what they need to know and do.
  • Students do not just get one shot at the assessment of that knowledge and skill but can go over learning many times – practice make perfect or rather perfect practice makes perfect.
  • Students can present themselves for assessment when they feel ready since time served does not apply – they can learn at their own speed rather than perform in a class like synchronised swimmers or marching teams.
  • Working with others, even talking through their learning, is the reward for working collaboratively rather than a detention.
  • There are no set numbers for the proportion of students passing – they will get credit for what they have learnt and can demonstrate.

Students wondering about preparing for tests and handing work in can accept that there will be problems when they are freed from lockdowns.  Students will get credit for what they do and what they know. The message is to get on with the work they have been asked to complete. Enjoy the freedoms of learning at your own speed. 

In the 2020 Covid Lock-down the Minister of Education decided to award extra credits for every five credits earned by the student that reflected that additional work and perhaps even the stress of studying in lock-down circumstances. NCEA has the flexibility to reflect learning that cannot be split into smaller pieces but rather reflect the holistic understanding of whole subjects that students develop.

One last thought! How many students have set up Zoom Study Groups