Dropouts victims of counting blunder
Almost 2000 teenage dropouts who thought they flunked a key school qualification actually passed but were never told due to a New Zealand Qualifications Authority blunder.
The NZQA is now preparing to track down the teens affected and 'fess up.
NZQA chief executive Karen Poutasi admitted the NCEA qualifications the teens passed are important for beefing up CVs of the school leavers now footing it in a tough job market.
"Particularly for those people aged under 20, NCEA Level 2 is an important qualification and has become regarded as a necessary requirement for entry into tertiary education as well as the entry level for many jobs," she said.
The Education Ministry found 1750 18-year-olds had fallen through the graduation cracks after earning partial credits through school then also racking up partial credits through a vocational or tertiary programme.
NZQA had not put the two lots of pass marks together.
Already there are fears the number of teens affected could grow once full investigations are completed. The 1750 discovered so far are only from 2011 and it was likely the issue also affected students from previous years.
Poutasi said: "There are a number of people who have left school and have since gained unit standards through study at tertiary level that has earned them further credits towards NCEA. This means they have the 80 credits needed to achieve NCEA Level 2 but may not have realised it.
"The growing importance of NCEA Level 2 means the New Zealand Qualifications Authority is working to ensure that all those who have successfully gained the qualification are aware of their achievement," Poutasi said.
A report to Education Minister Hekia Parata, released under the Official Information Act, admitted the issue in September last year. It said the NZQA would begin advising students of their achievement in October but "due to the expected size of this exercise . . . the NZQA needs to divide this task into manageable volumes so it does not disrupt their core work".
An NZQA spokeswoman said the authority was "currently implementing processes" that would figure out how many students in past years may have also fallen through the qualifications cracks. Some students aged 16 to 19 years would be contacted urgently and steps then made to contact older age groups.
The NZQA could not provide a total number of students affected by the error until investigations were completed this month.
- Sunday Star Times