Students encouraged to take easy option - Durie

More and more secondary school students are opting out of end-of-year exams in order to earn "easy" credits internally, particularly Maori.

Palmerston North sports physician Ra Durie says Maori students are being encouraged to take easy, internally-assessed subjects to ensure they pass.

The sports physician founded a private secondary school called Tu Toa 10 years ago with his brother Nathan - it has since been split into two special character schools catering for Maori student.

Durie said Maori students should be doing more core subjects - science and maths - but from his experience were being encouraged to seek easy, internally-assessed subjects, such as sport and leisure and Tikanga Maori, or learning traditions and customs.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has released its annual report highlighting a change in the number of students opting out of end of year exams and instead choosing to take tests during term time.

A review of last year's results revealed the number of students sitting external assessments, such as exams or building portfolios, has declined across all qualifications levels since 2009, whereas the number of students doing internal assessments, or regular tests and assignments throughout the year, has increased.

Durie said the trend was apparent among young Maori, but it was hindering their chances of success.

Schools were encouraging Maori students towards certain papers in a bid to earn easy credits, ensuring higher pass rates, stronger student retention and better funding for schools, he said.

"You want to support [good] results but if it's being done by dubious means then it's really letting down our people," Durie said.

"It's instilling a false sense of hope."

Ministry of Education student achievement deputy secretary Rowena Phair said NCEA was designed to give schools flexibility to develop programmes that worked for their students.

"We are not aware of any concerns about the quality of NCEA assessments in Manawatu," she said.

The system recognised learning across different areas of study, ways of learning and delivery, but some subjects would have more internal assessment than others "and that is entirely appropriate", Phair said.

NZQA's report also highlighted discrepancies with its moderation model, with thousands of school students being evaluated incorrectly.

After being checked by moderators, nearly one in four grades given by teachers for internally marked work were deemed incorrect, according to the report.

Internal assessments are set and marked by teachers, with grades checked by other teachers and samples in turn checked by NZQA.

Last year, 2000 internally assessed standards across 356 schools were picked for moderation and the agreement level was at 76 per cent - meaning moderators disagreed with almost one in four grades.

NZQA's deputy chief executive Richard Thornton said there had been no complaints or concerns about how the NCEA system was working in Manawatu schools.

Private secondary school Tu Toa split to form special character schools, Tai Wanaga-Tu Toa and Manukura.

Yvette McCausland-Durie, who leads Manukura with Nathan Durie, said there was no pressure on students to take certain subjects.

When the school was first established NZQA ran a series of sessions to check it was implementing the system correctly.

Normally schools were reviewed after each year, but McCausland-Durie said its review period had been pushed out to three years.

"That would indicate that we have a strong idea how the system works at NZQA and more importantly the head person who came in to check was really clear that we were strongly aligned with the right protocols and processes," McCausland-Durie said.

Manawatu Standard