By: Simon Collins

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says there is still no agreement on how to change the senior school exam system and it will not change before 2020 “at the earliest”.

He told a “co-design lab” in Wellington today that New Zealanders clearly didn’t all agree yet on how to change the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

But he said most people agreed that the current system involved “too much needless assessment” and that there was a need for more “life skills” such as financial literacy and business capability.

“It seems clear that there is a considerable appetite for change and plenty of avenues for improvement. But that we have much more work to do to get agreement on what those changes might look like,” he said, in prepared notes for the event.

“No changes will take effect before 2020 at the earliest. And any significant changes will take even longer. So we have plenty of time to get this right.”

The two-day “co-design lab” at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium involves students, teachers, boards of trustees members, parents, employers, tertiary educators, disability and learning support groups, Rainbow Youth, and Māori, Pacific, Asian, refugee and migrant groups.

The Ministry of Education said it was “a private event and is not open to the media”.

summary of public responses, released last week, found that 58 per cent of people disagreed with a proposal by an NCEA review group to scrap external exams for NCEA Level 1 and replace them with a 20-credit “project” and 20 credits in literacy and numeracy.

Only 22 per cent agreed with the idea and the rest were neutral.

There was more support with a proposal for a quarter of the credits required at Levels 2 and 3 to come from a “pathway” project such as research, work experience or a “community action project” – 45 per cent agreed, 27 per cent disagreed.

But the Post Primary Teachers Association said this could create “huge increases in teacher workload” and said: “We absolutely do not support making engagement in these [projects] a requirement for every student.”

The head of the review group, Jeremy Baker, has said: “That is the debate – whether we need to require people to do things, or whether we can achieve the same outcome perhaps without getting people’s backs up.”

Hipkins said he welcomed the debate.

“You see, that’s the ‘problem’, in inverted commas, when you let people have a say about education and about the future. They don’t always agree,” he said.

“Some people find that annoying. I don’t. I think it leads, in the end, to better outcomes and to changes that we can all believe in.”

He noted 71 per cent of students who responded to the review group, but only 52 per cent of parents, supported the current system of letting students re-sit NCEA papers after failing the first time.

“I think what that gap shows is the thinking in some quarters that, for some to succeed, some have to fail,” he said.

“My view, by contrast, is that every young person deserves every chance to succeed.”

He saw consensus on some issues.

Chris Hipkins says there is consensus that the current NCEA system involves “too much needless assessment”. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“Clearly, most people believe there is too much needless assessment. This is a finding I think we need to act on, and the sooner the better,” he said.

“Likewise, the desire, especially from students and employers, for more authentic real-world learning. And for the teaching of ‘life skills’ such as financial literacy and business capability, and ‘soft skills’ such as communication, critical thinking and teamwork.”

There was also “overwhelming support” for a proposal to scrap NCEA fees.

“I am looking very closely at whether we can abolish the fees and if so how quickly we can do that.”

He said the review group would continue to consult publicly until February and he hoped to take final proposals to Cabinet in April.

Source: NZ Herald

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