Ahead of this weekend’s election, online NCEA support platform StudyTime asked a selection of Wellington high school students what they think about the education system.

Although the students can’t vote, their answers give an interesting perspective from the coal face of the education system, said William Guzzo, whose tutoring service, Inspiration Education, runs StudyTime.

The students spoke to StudyTime about the lack of life skills, such as writing CVs and financial literacy, currently available at schools.

Guzzo, 26, said the students reflected what others had told him about today’s classrooms, and voters should consider their concerns.

“As someone who talks to young people on a daily basis, the students’ points of views were unsurprising, but nonetheless sad to hear.

“The purpose of education is to provide mobility so that anyone can shape their own future. I’m saddened that young people don’t see their education doing that for them and am concerned about the way these young people perceive education and schooling as they grow up.”

He said there was more pressure on today’s students, and they are leaving high school “stressed, disempowered and disengaged” from education.

Newlands College head boy Ben Murdoch told StudyTime he felt NCEA was “a lot of just ticking the boxes”.

“[It] may not actually be that good for learning or what’s outside of school,” he said.

Wellington College student Niklas Jung said exams “are definitely the most stressful part” of growing up and Wellington East Girls’ College student Aine Milne said she did not feel prepared for life after high school.

“I feel like after high school, going into university we get chucked in the deep end. I feel like it wouldn’t be as bad if they told us about like money and stuff… [they don’t really teach] life lessons.”

Guzzo was also concerned by students feeling there was a lack of mental health services and a stigma about coming forward for help.

“One thing I have anecdotally noticed over the past years with students is that their mental health struggles are increasing – and the support systems for students are not there.”

Wellington College student Sam Nelson agreed. “They give no help towards that, it’s just, if you have to do it, ‘suck it up’. They should probably get more people in to help with that.”

Guzzo says the students answers showed a “disempowered undertone”.

“Not feeling they can reach out for help; feeling uninspired; feeling stressed, anxious and unprepared for the future.

“We need to listen to our young people. We ask educational experts, parents and teachers about their views on education, but we hardly ever ask students themselves.

“As evidenced from the above, students are pretty perceptive about what they want out of education, so as adults, sometimes we need to shut our mouths and just listen and understand. By doing this, we will start to solve the failures of our current education system.”

The hot seat

Education Central asked for William’s thoughts, given that he’s been observing the thoughts and opinions of young people, on how we as a society could go about solving some of the trenchant problems young people today face.

Education Central: What would you do to fix the problems you’ve identified? It sounds like you’re saying we need more support staff?

William Guzzo:

  • Integrate a strong student voice into our education policy decision process. I think this article shows that perhaps we need to get more of the students’ views as their voice is not being heard.
  • I definitely believe we should be having more support staff, and paying them more too.
  • More education and support to schools about mental health. We aren’t doing enough and need to do much, much, more.

EC: What’s your personal opinion on NCEA? Do you think it’s at the heart of the fact that you’ve run into lots of disenchantment and anxiousness, or is it something else?

  • I wouldn’t say it’s the sole driver – I think the mental health epidemic in our young people contributes to that – but I do think it’s a factor.
  • The overall principles of NCEA are good I think – the flexible pathways and a mixture of internal and external assessments are good things to strive for – but I think the implementation of the system is what is causing a lot of issues.
  • In particular, I think assessment design, grading systems, and variations between schools in terms of assessment conditions and marking styles are all contributing.
  • I think our young people are under so much pressure to perform and succeed in the world – reinforced by the messages that wider society gives them – that they see failure as a life sentence and not an opportunity to learn.


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