Back in the day the National Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA) replaced School Certificate, Sixth Form Certificate and University Bursary. University Entrance remained but the form it takes has altered.
Throughout the levels you study within achievement standards or unit standards. Achievement standards have always been seen as more academic (and change was made so you could achieve or with merit or excellence). Some achievement standards have been mainly internally assessed – others mainly examined. Unit standards have been a lower hurdle, trade directed and always internally assessed. As well as plain old L1, L2, or L3 NCEA – there has been a proliferation in all sorts of “certificates” (eg in computing, hairdressing). A student could decorate walls with these, as pony club kids do.
When you pass an achievement or unit standard at a particular level you get “credits”. A credit from either type is the same value (whether physics or changing a bike tyre or organising a desk workspace).
A subject – eg mathematics – could be made up of five/six achievement standards (effectively units of work that cover approx six weeks) that describe what will be taught/learned and the mode of assessment. Roughly, this could be achievement standards for number, geometry, statistics, algebra, measurement, research… Quite quickly it reached the stage that there were a limited number of achievement standards but MANY unit standards (a dog’s breakfast). It also has fractured having complete courses.
To Achieve L1 NCEA
Students need to accumulate 60 credits from any level (1, 2 or 3) courses and/plus students must have “literacy and numeracy” by having 10 credits in math-related standards (loosely) and 10 in English-related standards (also loosely), ie a total of 80 credits. A well-organised and motivated student (they do exist) will have 120 credits, have sat exams and got a merit or excellence endorsement.
To Achieve L2 NCEA
Students need to accumulate 60 credits from L2 or L3 courses (plus 20 from any level) and have met the L1 numeracy and literacy requirements.
To Achieve L3 NCEA
Students need to accumulate 60 credits from L3 courses (plus 20 from any level) and have met the L1 numeracy and literacy requirements.
To Achieve University Entrance
Students need NCEA level 3 including 14 credits in each of three “approved subjects” at level 3. There are approximately 60 of these and yet many schools fail to have their Y13 students doing even three of them – therefore they cannot get UE. They also need UE literacy – 10 credits at level 2 or above, made up of: – 5 credits in reading – 5 credits in writing. They also need UE numeracy – 10 credits at level 1 or above (the same as the requirement for NCEA numeracy – a very low bar). Universities will also have points requirements to get into certain courses.
If you want to really blow your mind – go here for the “approved subjects” list.
There has been tinkering over time to make things more or less academic, etc: not worth detailing. It is like a mansion built by drunk idiots, in the dark, with no overall plan, over 30-plus years.
As it became clearer and clearer that you could get right through all of these qualifications and lack any real ability to be numerate or literate, the 2018 Labour government, under pressure (boom, boom, ba bep), chose to introduce “co-credits” in numeracy and literacy that are, theoretically, at L1 but can be sat in any year (even Y7). They are worth 10 credits each and have been designed to ensure a basic level of both aspects. If you cannot pass them, you cannot get any qualification. (They have created them as online assessments, which is stupid but I won’t detail the reasons here).
They were supposed to be compulsory in 2023. Three things have screwed that up.
- Labour’s union-affiliated hatred of assessment meant that no one had any idea just how badly students were being taught and doing in these basics. This has been deliberately hidden for years and years.
- Hipkins failed to put in place any effective teaching and learning programme to rectify a situation that he had chosen not to discover.
- Trial testing over the last three years has had appalling results and even the most recent ones showed that if the co-credits were made compulsory in 2024 (a year later that original intended) up to 50 per cent of students could/would leave school with no qualifications (and 90 per cent of decile one students).
The overall “cluster balls-up” (I needed to coin a new phrase to stop myself crying for the kids) of our system, and the degree needed to understand it, is one of the reasons the NCEA has both lost credibility and has little impact as a motivator for many students. Many of those who are moderately organized – accumulate credits throughout the year in all manner of ways – get to the number needed and switch off (not bothering with exams) and often will even leave school at the end of term three and go and work.
On top of the mess it was in 2018 – only Hipkins/Labour could have made it worse – and in spectacular style. Add to this the “curriculum refresh” (which is appalling) and…
How many teachers, bureaucrats, parents and politicians could pass a test on this from their everyday knowledge?
Alwyn Poole, a well-known figure in the New Zealand education system, he founded and was the head of Mt Hobson Middle School in Auckland for 18 years. This article was published HERE