Panellists had some interesting reflections on Education Central’s first Chalk Talk on the NCEA Review.

CE of Industry Training Federation, Josh Williams answers questions before panelists take their seat at Education Central’s first ChalkTalk

The major take away for Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams was how the NCEA is just one part of a much bigger picture.

“By talking about the assessment system we uncovered a much broader discussion about how well our system is supporting all learners to meet their potential.  There seemed to be

a high level of consensus that quality teaching and assessment has been undermined by too much assessment, with negative impacts on both teachers and learners,” says Williams.

“The worry I have is that an effort to ‘keep all options open’ is one of the causes of that. That seems to me to be the opposite of meeting a diversity of needs and abilities and dispositions, and the ability of NCEA to recognise that diversity.

“I would rather see senior secondary become a multi-year exploration of different pathways, so that the student is guided toward the next step they aspire for themselves, and gain a high quality qualification that attests to important skills.

People can and do change pathway, and people can and do enter different forms of education at different stages of their lives,” says Williams.

Dr Melinda Webber, Associate Professor at the University of Auckland felt these pathways needed to be more clearly presented to students and whanau. She suggested the need for “wayfinders”-leaders who ensure the pathways are clearly articulated and mapped out for everyone, with teacher-mentor support provided when necessary.

Tertiary education is one pathway in need of better definition, according to Webber.

“Students and whanau also need more information about what is expected from secondary school graduates entering universities. They also want universities to get more involved in schools from an earlier age – year 10 ideally. They want universities to ‘inspire’ their children and let them know that students and staff in universities are diverse – and look and sound like them!”

Webber felt that the NCEA Review proposals did not acknowledge that NCEA, and those implementing it, could do a better job of meeting the needs of Maori and Pasifika students and their whanau.

“It makes no differences to Maori and Pasifika students/families if you tinker around the edges, or do a complete overhaul, unless you teach them how to navigate the system successfully. At the moment many of them are drowning in its complexity.

“Many don’t know how to help their children navigate it. We need to simplify, not further complexify, the qualification.”

She felt this clarity should extend to expectations around learning progressions in each disciplinary area.

Victoria University of Wellington’s Dr Michael Johnston believes the importance of disciplinary learning should not be overlooked in considering the move to a more curriculum-integrated project-based way of learning and assessment.

“I am not advocating that all students ought to be prepared for university or that I am defending ‘traditional’ pedagogical approaches to disciplinary learning,” says Johnston, clarifying his stance on the subject.

Left to right: Dr Michael Johnston (Senior lecturer at Victoria University) Josh Williams, (CEO at Industry Training Federation) Hon Nikki Kaye (National’s Education Spokesperson) and John Murdoch (Principal at Mana College in Porirua)

“I think there was a good deal of consensus regarding the problems that the NCEA review needs to address and a degree of frustration that the Ministerial Advisory Group’s current ideas are constraining the public debate to an extent.”

Mana College principal John Murdoch thought there was scope to delve much deeper into some aspects of the debate.

I don’t think we spent enough time on the equity issues, which are huge for New Zealand, but I do think there is real potential to raise live debate in this area with a discussion on Tomorrow’s Schools.”

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