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Blind Alleys or Fruitful Pathways

I am greatly perplexed whenever I note that students at the MIT Tertiary High School can work flexibly though the NCEA requirements while seemingly schools mostly work to a choreographed set of lockstep moves. This sees Years being equated with Levels and Credits equated with the right to progress up those years.

The great promise in the early days of NZQA was that a standards-based system would ensure that “time served would be dead.” Well, it is not, and most students are required to take three years to complete in a relatively strict sequence the requirements of the NCEA award requirements imposed not by the nature of the award but the reluctance that is inherent in the school system to abandon the notion of groups moving through in sequence, a feature inherited from the previous discredited examination system. In a standards-based setting the accumulation of credits by a student should be an indication that a pathway is being shaped. If this is not the case, then there is a degree of help in the system.

Vocational Pathways are excellent in theory but perhaps have not perform to the extent they promised in practice. A superficial glance at the suggests that they are not often enough used in planning programmes thus leaving to chance the likelihood of a student finishing up with a robust set of credits that has integrity. In others, he or she will have a set of credits acceptable to the trade and significantly meeting the needs of the first year of employment.

Vocational Pathways have had a fair go and I fear that my belief that Vocational Pathways should ve been put into the oven again – the concept and its implementation was undercooked.

The figures speak for themselves: Pakeha – 21%, Maori – 15%, Pasifika – 15%, Asian – 16%. This was an overall 19% of the students eligible to be awarded a Vocational Pathway.

Take that small percentage of students and allocate the awards that were made: Creative Industries – 39% (down from 62% the year before!), Service Industries – 41%, Manufacturing and Technology– 10.1%, Construction and Infrastructure – 7.7%, Primary Industries – 6.4%, and Social and Community Services – 4.4%. The last four of these results are woeful considering the needs of the country.

I have long thought that the key issue was that the Vocational Pathways were being used in an a posteriori manner rather than being used in a powerful a priori manner essentially as a pathway planning tool. It matters what credits students attempt if they aspire to careers and they ought to be at that stage of their lives. It is as if Vocational Pathways have become a sort of pokie machine, pull the level at the end of the year, watch the tumblers and, Gee Whizz, three pineapples and an award for Primary Industries. We could be doing better at seeing that student’s do not make choices that are based either on random or chance. The most important transition in the education system deserves more and closer attention.

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