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Students have told us they want to be treated as individuals, recognising their diverse interests, cultures, identities, abilities and needs.

Young people want to enjoy learning and stay in control of their workload. They want to get away from a credit-focused experience, and instead access rich and flexible learning that’s exciting and relevant to their future aspirations and employment.

They’re also asking questions about the point of each level of NCEA, and what opportunities each level opens up. They’re keen to make sure that each level clearly contributes to their available pathways, and shows what they know and can do. They’re challenging us to think more widely about what a school leaver qualification looks like in the 21st century, and whether the current ‘multiple levels over multiple years’ system makes sense.

Below are some of the things we have heard, and some questions that may be useful for your conversations around the future of NCEA.

Rethinking the purpose of each NCEA

Aligning Principles: Pathways, Coherency, Credibility

What we've heard

“Most other countries don’t have three years of high stakes assessment, or three different school leaver qualifications. Why not have one “school leaver diploma” that reflects each person’s pathway and their achievements. You could do this over two or three years, building depth of learning and skill over time.”

Questions to ask

  • Are the purposes of each level of NCEA clear? How can we make these clearer so that everyone understands the purpose of each certificates?
  • Should three certificates over three years be the norm? Could we instead have two or three year programmes that lead to an overall qualification that reflects the pathway chosen?
  • What might one certificate with multiple levels and pathways look like?

Create mandatory standards drawn from “front end” of the NZC/TMoA

Aligning Principles: Pathways, Wellbeing, Equity

What we've heard

“I love how forward-thinking New Zealand is in education, and I would like our qualification system to reflect that. Keeping the focus on understanding, not knowledge; on citizenship and community; on dispositions and attitudes towards learning and life; creating pathways to work and living beyond school where university isn't the norm.”

Questions to ask

  • How do we measure attitudes and sound and emotional capabilities in a way that is credible and fair for all young people?
  • Can we observe these competencies and capabilities directly, or do we need to integrate them into other tasks and assessments?
  • How do we make sure that local assessments of social, emotional and cognitive skills are evidence-based and valid?

Create clearer pathways within the structure of NCEA giving students a clear view of their future

Aligning Principles: Pathways, Coherence

What we've heard

"We need to look at the motivational aspect of NCEA, pushing students to study areas that they have little interest in does nothing for them. U.E is only important to those wanting to go to university. Look at how credits and [final exams] can help students into trades, into polytechs into something rather than having them think they aren't good enough for anything if they can't achieve at the U.E level. Open the pathways to allowing more hands on learning methods."

Questions to ask

  • How should we strike a balance between providing clear structure and potentially reducing some flexibility and choice?
  • Is 15 or 16 too young to be making major decisions about your pathway in the 21st century?
  • Should school be more focused on preparing young people for employment?

Reduce overall assessment to allow more space for learning

Aligning Principles: Coherence, Wellbeing, Credibility

What we've heard

"There is too much continuous pressure on our young people. I think no other OECD country has 3 straight years of ongoing assessment. At the end of it all many students are coming away without the necessary skills to successfully enter the workplace [because we are focused on assessment at the experience of capability building]."

"I would remove the achievement and unit standard emphasis altogether, and focus more on the delivery of a range of programmes that align with the New Zealand Curriculum. The flexibility inherent in NCEA as it currently is, where learners choose options based on the credit values of assessment standards, is so great that it is hard to see how any student progresses through a coherent education journey. Instead it seems like a Lego-block approach."

Questions to ask

  • Reducing the number of assessments might raise the stakes of those that remain. How do we strike that balance?
  • Is it okay for learners to not receive credit for all the learning progress they have made? How do we choose what knowledge gets “valued” with credits?
  • If we define holistic outcomes in the NCEAs, rather than just adding up standards, how do we credibly and fairly assess these judgments?