If Eliot’s world ended in a whimper then the NCEA changes resulting from the recent review are something of a limp omelette made from the Curate’s egg.
The “change package” is something less than a package with its smattering of adjustments and changes, several good but many more not so. In its efforts to make NCEA more accessible the most significant and sensible change is proposed – NCEA fees and those for NZ Scholrship are to be abolished. This is beyond a doubt the most sensible item in whole package. It has always been an inequitous feature of the qualification procedures and, when schools failed to record credits because students hadn’t paid, was simply shameful.
Māori pressed for changes and by and large received some that will strengthen NCEA for many students as the wider potential of ākonga Māori is recognised along with the development of new assessment materials. This confirmation of appropriate pedagogy will result in increased success, finally captured as credit on the NZQF – diversity at the point of the education system that once was characterised by an arrogant and racist set of practices.
It is sad that the literacy and numeracy standards have been given a role on their own – a classic case which could lead to the teaching and learning of literacy for no obvious reason. To suggest that Literacy and Numeracy are co-requisites for the learning of skills and knowledge misses the point. Without something to be literate and numerate about, literacy and numeracy cease to have existence. Meaning and the ability to share it is literacy, and to be able to do so is to be literate.
“Bigger is better” is the cry for fewer standards. Those reviewing NCEA either lost the plot at this point or were determined to change the script into a dark and nasty tale. This section to large measure destroys the flexibility the characterises NCEA. A 50:50 split between internal and external assessment, integrating achievement standards, unit standards and associated materials (whatever they are), narrows the scope for different approaches. But I must say it was good to see the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) recognised. Secondary Tertiary Programmes were excluded from that Vocational Education review for a reason. (A forthcoming blog will discuss the role of NCEA in Vocational Education and Training.)
The great victory for those who work across a wide range of students is the retention of NCEA Level 1 despite the call for it to be removed. The 10% of students for whom this will be the highest level reached are only part of a wider group for whom Level 1 is valuable. It is the first step to success, it is the foundation for Level 2 which leads to Level 3 and the wide posibilities offered by Level 3 programmes in schools, in secondary / tertiary programmes and in tertiary institutions. Without Levels 1 and 2 there is no Level 3 and success.
There is an odd suggestion that Level 1 could be done at age 7. A suggestion such as this surely can only mean that the review had run out of steam.