Opinion: Mike Hosking

It looks like the government can review education and NCEA all it wants: the votes are in and increasing numbers of schools are dumping level one.

If there is one over-arching problem with schooling, it’s our inability to do something and stick with it.

NCEA has been a troubled child since birth, and I can’t help but wonder if there are those that never liked it, were determined not to like it, and have been dreaming of the day of dumping it.

There has been great consternation between NCEA and Cambridge, old versus new, the pass/fail system versus the new style of collective credits.

Like most complex things, there is no right and no wrong.

A lot of it has to do with how it’s delivered and how a student approaches it. We have four examples in our house, one through and out the other side, three in the middle of it. They’ll all get it, and that in part is the issue, it’s nigh on impossible not to get.

A couple of ours had all the credits they needed by June. They literally don’t need to front up for the rest of the year. That is not a good system.

At best you can get excellence, whatever that actually means. Getting 76 per cent, for example, you know where you are at. Excellence or merit is woolly.

And that’s before you get to the idea that by year 13 you can pick what you like. Dance, drama, photography, sport, any old, random series of subjects. If they happen to be the ones you’re pursuing through to university, fantastic. In our experience those who end up in the soft classes are the lightweights looking for an easy ride and ultimately it won’t serve them well, but there is no one to tell them that (or if there is, they’re not listening).

And then we get to the whole testing thing.

Level one is being dumped because they claim, and I think as a parent with experience here, wrongly, that we are over-tested. Level two will be attacked over two years not one.

It seems odd that we broadly agree we are not an overly qualified sort of country, that we let too many kids out of school too early with no qualifications, that we accept there is a massive disconnect between what we do in school and the work force, and yet we seem happy to loosen the rigours of teaching by doing less and less assessment as to where our kids are at.

A test, by its very nature, measures achievement.

A teacher might be able to guess where a kid is at, but a test proves it. And until you know, surely you’re guessing. And if you’re guessing, who the hell knows how it all ends up at the end of the year?

Two years is a lot of time to spend at high school aiming for a singular result. That’s 24 months for a single level. By taking out a stage, surely you run the risk of leaving kids behind?

And as for the argument about being over-tested, why is the marker other countries? Why aren’t we interested in setting our own agenda? And why isn’t that agenda to be world-leading? Why is the sheep mentality driving this decision?

Source: NZ Herald

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