Monday 31 October, 2022
Changes to NCEA
It has come to our attention through various discussions with parents, that there are some interesting views about our world-renowned national qualification NCEA and the changes that will improve the way that it is structured, to provide excellent pathways for our young people. 

It is worth being informed about these changes as they are important and are recommended by principals and communities who have been widely consulted. As a member of the National Curriculum Advisory Group, I believe that these changes are designed to enhance what is already an outstanding qualification.

The first and most important point is that NCEA is a world class qualification that has been highly successful in accessing universities and university scholarships around the world for our young people. It will continue to do so and as a school, we appreciate the flexibility it provides for modern course construction in contemporary and relevant subject areas.

What makes up a course?
A course is constructed by Achievement Standards – each standard is worth four or five credits. A one-year course is typically 20-22 credits in total. One change being implemented is to remove very big standards of six or more credits and very small ones. This means that standards have greater value and consistency for course construction. It also prevents schools from encouraging ‘credit reaping’. This is where students are encouraged to take many more credits than are needed to succeed. While it is nice to build enrichment, it sometimes can undermine the quality of overall achievement.

Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit and Excellence
The second clarification for parents is to remember that NCEA works like a university course. You study a number of papers for a degree, and you used to get an A, B, C (or D that would be a fail). NCEA is the same and standards can be achieved at Excellence, Merit, or Achieved. A Not Achieved is equivalent to a D – the credits for that standard are not counted.

NCEA Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3
NCEA has three levels for schools to select Achievement Standards (papers) from – Levels 1, 2 and 3 although students can select from any of these levels to build their course depending on their ability level. These levels continue on beyond school to Level 4 (NZQA Scholarship and first-year tertiary diploma courses) and Level 5, which is typically the first year of a university undergraduate degree.

NCEA allows students to select standards to study at their level of challenge – many of our girls complete standards from multiple different levels of the qualification. Few students are gifted across a range of subjects, but students can accelerate (study at higher levels) or enrich (study a wider range of subjects). For example – a mathematically gifted student can study NCEA Level 2 in Year 10, or NCEA Level 3 in Year 11, and study university math Levels 4 and 5 in Years 12 and 13, along with their other subjects.

In some cases, an across-the-board scholar can complete NCEA Level 3 in Year 12 and access early entry to university. For other students, course construction allows for a wide range of study. These options are far less possible in internationally structured qualifications as the courses are designed for consistency worldwide rather than student choice and flexibility. We have found that students learning at their level of challenge is motivating and involves creative solutions to course structure.

There are also new standards that are under development to provide a sequential course for students learning in a Māori language immersion environment. Some standards will also include components of mātauranga Māori for students who wish to continue study in Te Ao Māori.

We believe in and support the changes to NCEA. We believe that they strengthen the learning options for students along with the standards of literacy and numeracy that are expected. The changes will support the sensible structuring of courses to prevent credit reaping and will provide greater and more contemporary options for multi-levelling to enrich and accelerate student achievement.

We are very proud to offer a choice of two truly international qualifications – the IB Diploma and NCEA. We often get asked which is the best – and no one qualification is better than another, although some schools will tell you that! It depends where the student’s interests lie and how they want to challenge themselves. We have had students in the same year access Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, all with NCEA. The qualities of our graduates often extend well beyond what they know, to their impressive character, their contributions to service, arts and sports, and the natural leadership they develop through their identity. A whole school experience, family and community culture all contribute to this.

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