What is the future of New Zealand Scholarship?
Students would be under less pressure if New Zealand Scholarship and NCEA exams were tied together, a South Canterbury principal says.
Scholarship, which is not a formal qualification, requires a higher standard of performance than other examinations and offers financial rewards for achievement.
Roncalli College principal Chris Comeau said he applauded scholarship students, but the system should be re-assessed so achievement in level 3 exams could be rewarded by a scholarship or academic endorsements.
His comments triggered a discussion in the South Canterbury education community about the future and worth of New Zealand Scholarship.
It was safer for year 13 students to focus on their NCEA level 3 exams instead of tackling additional scholarship exams, which "don't count for anything", Comeau said.
"Sitting scholarship at the same time as NCEA is not manageable unless [a student] is highly academic."
Craighead Diocesan School year 13 students Julia Hogg and Alexis Townshend, both 17, did not agree that the system needed to changed.
Both planned to study physics, chemistry and dance scholarships this year, while Alexis also wanted to take a graphics scholarship subject.
The subjects they wanted to study would be covered in class so they required "extra work, not extra learning", Alexis said.
Unlike worrying about getting an endorsement and excellence in NCEA, they only needed to pass their scholarship exams, she said.
Julia said she hoped the additional work would help her if she chose to study sciences at university.
The financial reward and deeper understanding of her subjects was other incentive to work hard, she said.
Comeau questioned the future of scholarship as it looked good on a CV, but students did not receive credit for it.
"Kids are busy ... a lot don't have time to devote so much energy in scholarship."
His comments followed the announcement of scholarship results last week, when about 2050 students nationwide received a scholarship for $500 to $1000 for one or two subjects.
A New Zealand Qualifications Authority spokeswoman said there had not been a drive to review New Zealand Scholarship.
It was introduced in 2004 " to extend and recognise the very best students and to financially reward very able students who are going on to tertiary study in New Zealand".
It examined the breadth and depth of study on a subject basis, recognising high performance in a single subject as well as across multiple subjects.
Former Timaru Girls' High School (TGHS) Year 13 student Bridget Shimmin, 18, said her biology scholarship made sure she was focussed and helped with her study.
She had started a Chemistry scholarship subject, but found it studied different material and required more work, which would have detracted from her other exams.
While the financial reward might seem small, it made a difference to a university student, Shimmin said.
Timaru Boys' High School rector Nick McIvor said excellence grades in NCEA level 3 did not have much to differentiate between, but a scholarship subject enabled students to be graded against their peers nationally.
It allowed the most academically gifted students to challenge themselves and excel, McIvor said.
An additional question in an exam, instead of a separate exam, might be a different avenue to consider, he said.
Other South Canterbury principals did not call for changes to the system, but they emphasised the level of dedication required to study scholarship.
TGHS principal Sarah Davis said students had to be well organised and have time for the extra requirements needed to cover this commitment.
"In some cases, we counsel caution about picking up too much extra work, which could count against success in NCEA Level 3," Davis said.
Craighead Diocesan School principal Lindy Graham said students considering picking up scholarship needed to commit early as it required a lot of independent study beyond the regular level 3.
"The monetary reward is not fantastic, but every little bit helps towards those daunting university costs," Graham said.
"All schools applaud students who are prepared to sit scholarship over and above their level 3 commitments."
It was a wonderful effort for students, who need to be intrinsically motivated and highly organised, and a huge thanks must go to the teachers who have encouraged and supported them, she said.