The 2015 school year is quickly approaching and for some of you dad’s out there a whole new way of life is on the horizon. It’s an eventuality with children. One day they’re wearing pigtails and stomping around in your gumboots and the next they’re walking out the door for their first day of high school.
I’m not sure if I buy into the whole idea that things have changed drastically since you were in high school. Fundamentally there probably aren’t many differences however one of the biggest changes will be NCEA which launched in 2002 around the country.
It sounds complicated at first but once you understand NCEA you’ll be better equipped to help your child during the final years of their university education. NCEA is typically sat over fifth, sixth and seventh form and takes the place of School cert, sixth form cert and bursary.
In order to pass a year a student must earn enough credits. Level one requires 80 credits. Ten credits need to be in numeracy and ten in literacy. In level two students need to achieve sixty credits at level two and twenty credits at level one or higher. They also need to have achieved level one numeracy and literacy. Level three is similar to level two, a student needs sixty credits at level three and twenty credits at level two or higher. They must also hold level one numeracy and literacy credits.
Credits can be used for more than one NCEA certificate which means that level one credits can be used again in level two to meet the twenty credits from level one or higher requirement. Making sense so far? When I was in High School they explained it just so. ‘If you earn more than 80 credits in level one you only need to earn sixty credits in level two. If you earn more than 80 credits in level two you only need to earn sixty credits at level three.’ It’s basically a numbers game.
Credits are earned during the year with both unit and achievement standards. A unit standard is measured simply in pass/fail while achievement standards have the grading system of Not achieved, achieved, merit and excellence. Credits can be earned internally and externally. Internal credits are earned with assignments during the year, in class tests and school projects. External credits are earned during exams which are then marked by external markers.
In 2011 the NCEA system was altered slightly with the addition of endorsements and grade score marking. If a student does particularly well and earns more than fourteen credits at either a merit or excellence level they will earn a merit or excellence endorsement on that years certificate. Grade score marking or GSM is a system in which each question in an exam is worth eight marks. Individual questions are graded either Not achieved or No evidence, Achieved, Merit or excellence and then the overall paper is marked. The idea behind this was to help students see where they need to improve and encourage them to work at weaker areas.
Possibly the most important part of NCEA is university entrance. If your child has dreams of attending university the easiest way for them to get there is to earn UE through NCEA. Although some programs may have special entrance requirements there is a blanket university entrance level. Students must have passed NCEA level three with fourteen of their credits coming from each of the three approved UE subjects. They also need to demonstrate level one and two numeracy and literacy.
NCEA is one of the only high school educational systems in which students get their papers and exams back after they’ve been marked. This way students can review how they did and what areas they need to work on ahead of next year. Students can check their final grades at the end of the year by accessing them online before their papers are returned to them through the post.
There has been lots of support and resistance against the NCEA system over the years and both sides of the argument make good points. The NCEA system has definite pros and cons and parents should consider these as it is possible to enrol your child in a school that operates under the Cambridge system rather than NCEA.
The NCEA system suits children who don’t preform well under pressure. There is less empathise on exam performance as it’s possible for a student to pass the year without doing well in their final exams. Schools even hold practice exams part way through the year and if a student preforms particularly badly at end of year exams or can not sit them for reasons outside of their control their results from the mid year exams will be transferred to their end of year papers.
However because of this some claim that the NCEA system encourages slacking. Students can build their year around passing assignments they find easier and not have to worry about more difficult end of year exams. There are also multiple chances to resit internally marked assessments. Teachers will mark papers and return them to students with comments regarding how and why they failed. In most cases students will then be able to resubmit their assignments with the penalty of not being able to achieve an excellence mark on that assignment.
If your child is about to begin their NCEA journey or even their high school education encourage them to form good strong study habits. While they aren’t studying NCEA in years nine and ten they are forming the study habits that will determine if they pass or fail over subsequent years.
Keep yourself informed about what assignments and exams your children have and offer study help and tutoring if they need a little extra help. Attend parent teacher nights, query teachers if you have questions and remember support and understanding will always produce better results than anger and punishment.