As part of the Labour-led government’s efforts to break down financial barriers
to post-school training and education, up to 80,000 people are now eligible for fees-free tertiary study (one year free) or training (two years free).

Students this year also have a little extra money in their pockets with the introduction of a $50 increase in student allowance and student loan weekly living costs limits, which will make more than 130,000 students $50 a week better off.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has been busy, and there are more changes to come. When we talked last month, he said he was pleased with how the new policy was being implemented.

“Forecasts are that it will start to slow the decline in enrolments we’ve inherited from the previous government and will build again from there.

“But that is not the only aim. Other key drivers of the initiative are to reduce the cost burden and reduce student loan debt for fees associated with further learning and training. The majority of people benefiting from the policy will be in non-university settings such as polytechnics, PTEs and on-the-job apprenticeships. Vocational training is an area that the government is targeting due to chronic skill shortages in many of these areas.”

Hipkins estimates that, on average, full-time university students will save between $6,000 and $8,000 this year and believes that fees are generally lower at polytechnics and wa-nanga, and for certificate and diploma programmes.

What was wrong with NCEA?

“NCEA is a widely trusted and respected qualification,” says Hipkins. “We want to make sure, however, that NCEA is right for the future. I hear a lot about teacher workload and kids feeling like their secondary school life is all about assessments. NCEA, the way it is currently, may impact on teacher workload and student wellbeing.

“Students and teachers have been saying things need to be done in these areas to counter teacher burnout and put more emphasis on actual teaching. Another significant part of the review looks into the role of each level of NCEA, particularly the structure and relevance of NCEA Level 1 and whether all young people should attempt it.

“Ultimately it’s about strengthening the qualification to meet the needs of young people today.”

When my 13-year-old daughter asked at her school what sort of exams she might be sitting in a couple of years, no-one knew. However, Hipkins says that NCEA is not going to be replaced.

“The review is about modernising NCEA and making the changes [to issues] that are frustrating our young people and teachers.

“Your daughter has an opportunity to have a say in this when public consultation begins next month. I have released the Terms of Reference for the NCEA review in January so people can have a look at exactly what the review is about.”

Have your say

“I’d also encourage your daughter to join in the Education Conversation, which the Prime Minister launched last month. I’d like to hear about what changes she’d like to see to the education system more broadly. She can share her views and ideas through the online survey https://conversation.education.govt.nz.

“One of the most important things for me is to listen to those currently in the education system. That’s why I really do encourage her and her friends to contribute.”
Hipkins says we can expect to see more changes from the early learning sector as well as the tertiary sector.

“We’ve got an ambitious education work programme over the next three years. This year we’ve begun the consultation phase where we hear about what’s working and what’s not before we embark on the implementation phase next year.”

“I want to make sure that our education system is modern and responsive to the needs of learners.”

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