Has NCEA delivered?

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 26 September 2016

Support for the NCEA has consolidated but some schools are still doing too much assessment, an author of a new book about the school qualification says.

Students sitting an exam together

Photo: 123RF

Rose Hipkins from the Council for Educational Research told Nine to Noon students work harder under the NCEA than they did under previous qualification systems that were based on end-of-year exams.

Dr Hipkins is one of the authors of the book NCEA in Context which charts the development of the qualification from its introduction in 2002-2004.

She said some students were collecting as many as 250 credits a year when NCEA was first introduced, because they were trying to differentiate themselves as high achievers.

Dr Hipkins said that changed when the Qualifications Authority introduced merit and excellence endorsements, which gave the most able students something to aim for.

She said the introduction of NCEA created a huge workload for teachers and there was still considerable anxiety for them in trying to ensure their judgements about students' work were correct.

Dr Hipkins said more students were staying at school since the introduction of NCEA and more were being successful and gaining a qualification that was meaningful for the path they wanted to take when they left school.

One problem area with the NCEA was the short answers required by many assessments did not prepare students well for university study, where they were expected to write critically and at length.

However, she said the same criticism could be levelled at the Bursary qualification that preceded NCEA.

"The NCEA is only the method of assessing the learning that's taking place, and actually what should be driving, we know it's not in many cases, but what should be driving is the curriculum," she said.

Dr Hipkins said NCEA put more pressure on students throughout the year, especially if schools were doing more assessment than they really needed to do.

"When there was just the exam at the end of the year, there wasn't so much pressure during the year," she said. "It's certainly more relentless."

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