Schools won't phase out NCEA

The two Hamilton schools using Cambridge International Exams (CIE) say they do not plan to follow the Auckland Grammar School example of phasing out NCEA.

Hillcrest High School usually has about 20 students a year studying CIE English and maths while simultaneously doing NCEA courses and principal Kelvin Whiting said he did not see that changing in the near future.

Hamilton Boys' High School principal Susan Hassall said the school had used CIE for about eight years and about a third of year 11 students would participate in it.

But there was no chance of change this year and she was enthusiastic about the balance the "dual pathways" provided.

"I personally think Cambridge exams offer very effective additional programmes; especially, but not only, for able students it provides a more rigorous programme in year 11 for those who want to be extended," Ms Hassall said.

"It complements NCEA very well and gives students a genuine breadth of knowledge."

CIE is exam-based and students receive a percentage mark at the end of the year, whereas NCEA incorporates internal assessments as students accumulate credits to pass courses.

Mr Whiting said the structure of NCEA allowed for "multi-level" learning, meaning a year 10 and a year 12 student could gain the same credits and courses could be tailored to reflect the individual learning needs of the pupils.

In the past NCEA has been criticised for not pushing students because someone who scraped through could get the same number of credits as someone who got 100 per cent.

But both principals said having two assessment systems allowed them to be flexible in catering to their students' needs, which was the important thing.

Although he admitted NCEA was not perfect, Mr Whiting was enthusiastic about the newly established Course Endorsements at merit and excellence level which aimed to challenge students by giving them an overall grade for specific courses as well as individual grades for each standard within those courses.

Auckland Grammar's controversial move came as a study was released which criticised the teaching of NCEA science for taking a "surface approach".

Victoria University graduate Dr Azra Moeed said science investigations under NCEA were more about learning the steps to follow rather than students knowing why they were following the steps.

Meanwhile, the Auckland Grammar decision to have only 10 per cent of year 11 students studying NCEA has provoked angry responses from PPTA president Kate Gainsford and Labour's associate education spokesperson Kelvin Davis who said it showed Education Minster Anne Tolley's lack of faith in the system.

The school met ministry officials yesterday to discuss the situation.

Waikato Times