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The table below helps to show how NCEA looks like now, and what it will look like in the future with the changes in place.

1. Make NCEA more accessible

Current state Change Principles

The design of NCEA can make it hard for some New Zealanders to access and achieve a qualification

Standards and assessment resources are not always accessible or inclusive

All NCEA fees, including NZ scholarship fees will be removed

Achievement standards are accessible and inclusive by design so that everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve, and the need to apply for a SAC is reduced

Where possible, some existing SACs are available for anyone

Application process for SAC is simplified

Equity & Inclusion


2. Mana ōrite mo to mātauranga Māori

Current state Change Principles

Lack of resourcing for Māori education – few teaching and learning guides, exemplars etc.

Ākonga don’t always get their cultural knowledge recognised through the achievement standards, which is unfair

Kaiako and teachers lack the skills to adapt NCEA for ākonga

Te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori are built into the outcome statements as part of the new ‘graduate profiles’ for NCEA and in the design of achievement standards

More and better assessment resources and teaching and learning guides for Māori education

New achievement standards to make sure that mātauranga Māori is acknowledged and credentialed by NCEA

Greater teacher capability around culturally inclusive NCEA

Equity and Inclusion



3. Strengthen literacy and numeracy requirements

Current state Change Principles

Students can currently gain the 20 required NCEA literacy and numeracy credits from:

  • A list of over 700 ‘literacy- or numeracy-rich’ standards
  • 6 unit standards benchmarked to the Adult Progressions for Literacy and Numeracy
  • 3 ‘English for Academic purposes’ (ESOL) unit standards

New external standards are developed, set to a consistent benchmark

Achieving 20 credits from these standards is a requirement of awarding NCEA Levels 1, 2 or 3

The 20 credit literacy and numeracy requirement does not contribute towards the 60 credits needed for each level of NCEA (a co-requisite)

Students will be able to meet the standard whenever they are ready, which may be as early as year 7



4. Have fewer, larger standards

Current state Change Principles

Learning in NCEA has become increasingly fragmented and NCEA courses can often lack coherence

Currently, schools create courses using a number standards, which are categorised by subject. Courses can be registered by schools, allowing for recognition of cross-curriculum and innovative courses, but only appear on Records of Achievement if a merit endorsement is achieved.

Originally, each subject had 24 credits, but over time this has increased. Many subjects have far more credits available than are needed to make up a course. (for example, Level 1 English has 11 available standards, worth 39 credits).

This means it can be hard to identify which learning to focus on.

The sheer number of assessment events per year leads to an unmanageable workload for both students and teachers

Some see the trend towards fewer external credits (from approximately 50% of recorded results, to as low as 30%) as undermining the credibility of NCEA and creating gaps in learning

The standards available in each subject are rebuilt so there are fewer of them, but each covers a broad range of knowledge and skills. Schools will still have the flexibility to create innovative and individualized courses, but will choose from a smaller number of available standards

Each standard is worth between 4-6 credits, with around 20 credits per subject

The number of credits available from internally and externally assessed standards (not necessarily exams, but may be portfolios, performances or reports) is more balanced. When creating courses, schools will still have freedom of choice and will not be required to use specific standards, but the intention is to reverse the current overall trend away from external assessment

Where appropriate, different sources of knowledge are reflected in the standards and associated materials

Students will be able to get course endorsements for ‘Achieved’ grades

All registered courses will have a brief course description which outlines the focus and content of the course. This will appear on the student’s record of achievement to clearly show what a student knows and can do

Vocational education and training in NCEA will be strengthened





5. Simplify NCEA’s structure

Current state Change Principles

Many New Zealanders find NCEA hard to understand

Each level of NCEA requires 80 credits, but students are able to ‘carry over’ 20 credits from a lower level of NCEA

In some schools, assessment workload is unmanageable

The ‘carry-over’ of 20 credits from a lower level NCEA is gone. This makes each Level of NCEA a 60 credit qualification

There is clear guidance on how many credits the typical student would enter each year; 120 credits at level 1 and 2, and 100 credits at level 3. When each course is rebuilt as a coherent suite around 4 standards, worth about 20 credits, students taking up to 5 or 6 courses per year would not exceed this credit limit.

Resubmissions are only offered to take a student from ‘Not Achieved’ to ‘Achieved’




6. Show clearer pathways to further education and employment

Current state Change Principles

Students don’t always get access to quality pathways, or the information needed to make good decisions about their future

Students often take subject pathways which are too narrow

The purpose of each level of NCEA and the records of achievement are not easy to understand

A clear ‘graduate profile’  is developed for each level of NCEA that describes what a student awarded the qualification is able to do and know

A Vocational Entrance award is established (similar to University Entrance)

The record of achievement is rebuilt to more clearly show what a student knows and can do, including course endorsement at achieved, merit and excellence and a series of course descriptions

The Vocational Pathways are enhanced, to improve their effectiveness as a navigation and planning tool




7. Keep NCEA Level 1 as an optional level

Current state Change Principles

Schools are wondering about whether or not to keep NCEA level 1

Many students, schools, and communities value level 1 for a variety of reasons and for around 10%, it will be their highest qualification

Other schools have chosen to remove Level 1 to allow teachers to focus more on teaching and less on assessment

NCEA Level 1 is kept as an optional level for those schools and communities that wish to continue to use this qualification

Others are free to adopt alternative approaches to Year 11, in a way that best meets the needs of their students

As part of our rebuild of NCEA standards, Level 1 is refocused on a broad education across a wide range of Learning Areas



NCEA Change Package 2019 overview

Read the NCEA Change Package Overview 2019 for more detail about the changes, the journey we took with New Zealand to get to them, and what an NCEA programme could look like.