Labour signalled it would review the NCEA system during last year's election.

"This review will build on what has been achieved with NCEA to date, and respond to emerging need," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said in December.

In a Discussion Document, the ministerial advisory group tasked with reviewing the 15-year-old NCEA identified “6 Big Opportunities for NCEA” that could help strengthen the program.

The suggestions would be to:

  • Re-imagine NCEA Level 1 so it is focused on ensuring young people are prepared for further study, work, and life as citizens
  • Strengthen and clarify our expectations for literacy and numeracy attainment
  • Explicitly build into NCEA Levels 2 and 3 a requirement to prepare young people for further study, work, and life
  • Provide support for teachers, schools, and kura to enable real learning and coherent programmes
  • Strengthen and enhance the Record of Achievement so it provides a full picture of what young people have achieved
  • Remove barriers to achieving NCEA, starting with fees, process for accessing Special Assessment Conditions, and access to quality curriculum support materials.

The review also offered other options to alter NCEA, including removing Level 1 altogether. Commentary accompanying this option noted that while it would lower teacher and student workloads, it would deny others the chance to achieve a qualification before leaving school.

The review also recommended stronger pathways to higher education, future work and life.

This could take the form of a research project or work experience, for example, and would be tailored to the interests of each student.

“All students have different strengths and abilities,” Hipkins said, during his announcement of the outcomes on Sunday.

“I want every young person to have access to a pathway through NCEA that reflects their strengths, so that all students can fulfil their potential.”

The Minister said the ideas put forward were underpinned by the idea of taking advantage of NCEA’s flexibility, while also reducing over assessment and “[giving] teachers more time to teach and students more time to learn”.

 Hipkins said the public would now have the opportunity to have their say on NCEA.

“Everybody will be able to have their say on the NCEA Review through a quick online survey.”

“At stake is the opportunity to change how NCEA is used to prepare our students for life after school in a fast-changing world,” he said.

 “Those who want to make a more detailed submission will have the opportunity to participate in workshops, focus groups, hui, fono, complete a longer survey or make a written submission.”

Hipkins said the feedback would inform the recommendations he would make to Cabinet in February 2019 about how to update NCEA.

Jack Boyle, president of the PPTA, said the union was pleased to see such a comprehensive review taking place.

“Our members have been telling us for years that NCEA has potential but often doesn’t work well in practice.

"Teachers want an assessment system that values every child, helps them reach their potential and also allows teachers to bring their best to the classroom," he said.

"PPTA will be encouraging all our members to participate in the review.”

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