Crunch time for swots as NCEA exams begin

'It's do-able, you've just got to keep at it'

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012
Jonathan Viviani
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ

HITTING THE BOOKS: St John’s College year 12 student Jonathan Viviani, left, and year 10 student Will Captein are about to undertake their NCEA exams.

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More than 10,000 Waikato secondary students armed with pens, paper and a year's worth of learning, will launch into their end-of-year exams starting today.

And should the region's positive trend continue as expected, more than 70 per cent of them will leave school with an NCEA Level 2 or higher qualification under their belts.

Latest figures from the Ministry of Education show 70 per cent of Waikato school leavers attained NCEA level 2 or above last year, up from about 64 per cent in 2009.

The number of students who failed to achieve NCEA Level 1 - the most basic secondary school qualification - also dropped from 21 per cent in 2009 to 17 per cent last year.

It's an optimistic outlook for the 10,734 secondary students who will fill exam rooms across the region from today.

However, the Government's goal is for 85 per cent of them to be attaining NCEA Level 2 by 2017.

As Education Minister Hekia Parata put it this week: "This is good news but we can do better."

Education Ministry spokeswoman Dr Andrea Schollman said Level 2 was considered "a minimum benchmark qualification for post-school success".

Post-Primary Teachers' Association president Robin Duff said while there was every reason to believe the positive trend would continue, it would be a challenge to live up to the Government's expectations.

"We feel it's a bit more political spin than it is the reality of it," he said. "In a sense it's also a bit insulting.

"People don't set out even for those sorts of margins. You set out to do your best with all youngsters. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't, depending on the school, the socio-economic circumstances and lots of factors."

Based on last year's figures, some Waikato schools would struggle to get 85 per cent of students over the NCEA Level 2 hurdle within four years.

About one third of school leavers at Hamilton's Fraser High School failed to even attain NCEA level 1 last year, and less than a half reached level 2 or above.

About 55 per cent of Fairfield College school leavers reached Level 2 or above last year, and 29 per cent of students pupils left school without Level 1.

However, the college has seen a gradual improvement since 2009.

In comparison, 159 of 165 school leavers at Hamilton's Sacred Heart Girls' College attained NCEA level 2 or above last year, 120 of those reaching university entrance standard.

And Hamilton Boys' High School is also already at the Government standard with 85 per cent of pupils leaving school with NCEA Level 2 or above last year.

STUDENTS DO HARD YARDS FOR EXAMS

With exams starting tomorrow, two Hamilton students are slogging away for hours each day - even though neither of them have to.

Hamilton Boys' High School student, Will Barrett studies for at least an hour every day in preparation for level one accounting on Tuesday, despite the fact he's only year 10.

He started an NCEA accounting course this year to gain 12 credits which would carry over and put him a step ahead beginning level one next year.

"It looked like it would be a good opportunity and take me somewhere and it has been good. This ones worth 12 credits so I want to do it because those are going to be a good thing to convert on to next year, they'll do me well," he said.

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The forward thinking 15-year-old said the thought of failing is nerve-racking but he is "pretty confident" and looking forward to relaxing at the end of it.

Meanwhile, his friend and neighbour, Jonathan Viviani, 17, is preparing for his level two exams by studying at least three hours each day, with an unfailing can-do attitude.

The St John's College student dutifully distances himself from the computer, his wi-fi enabled iPod and even stashes his cell phone away while he studies to limit distractions, despite having already achieved all of his level two requirements. "I don't even know why I'm studying so hard. I don't really need to do well, but I mean, you might as well. It's do-able, you've just got to keep at it, like everything. Maybe I've just gotten stuck on the habit, or maybe I just want to better myself," he said.

Jonathan's first exam is English on Tuesday, followed by physics then biology and maths in the following week, yet he still not nervous.

"There's no point in being nervous, whatever I put in now is what's going to happen in the exam so I might as well just keep working at it."

- Waikato Times

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