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It's great to hear the lively debating happening around the country about the NCEA Change Package. We’ve heard some discussions that could benefit from extra clarity or information. These questions and answers will help to address some misconceptions.

Myth: Students will now have to complete external assessment to get an NCEA

No changes are being made to the types of credits needed to get an NCEA - it will still be possible to get NCEA entirely through internal assessment.

At present, teachers creating courses have options within most subjects (such as History, Science or Pāngarau) to have some level of external assessment available. We are aiming for half of these standards available to now be externally assessed (i.e., 10 out of the 20 credits available within a certain subject at each level).

The external assessments will not necessarily be exams – so for schools teaching ‘standard’ subjects, external assessment would make up around half of the credits in each subject.

Programmes that incorporate cross-curricular or integrated learning can be created using standards drawn from multiple subjects.

Teachers will continue to have flexibility in course design, and do not need to deliver courses in ‘standard’ form. For example, they could design a semesterised 10 credit course that is all internally assessed; or build cross-curricular courses using internal assessments from different subject areas. The ‘default’ template, however, will be around 20 credits, with around half the credits externally assessed which will provide greater structure and clarity to teachers designing courses about what to focus on.

We will be working with subject associations, and other groups such as wāhanga ako experts and ākonga Māori subject advisors to understand what will work in each discipline.

Myth: NCEA is becoming much more restrictive, like School Certificate.

NCEA’s flexibility is a strength – and none of the changes make any specific content, standards or courses compulsory, other than for literacy and numeracy. We do want to make sure that the achievement standards reflect the most important learning within each subject, but this will be based on the National Curriculum, and incorporate a holistic understanding of the knowledge, skills, competencies and dispositions needed to become a lifelong learner.

We will work with subject associations, and other groups such as wāhanga ako experts and ākonga Māori subject advisors to understand what the most important learning within each subject is.

Myth: Cross-curricular courses or integrated learning won’t be possible anymore. 20 credit courses will be mandatory and set by the Ministry.

Just like at the moment, achievement standards will be developed as part of matrices: groups of standards within a certain subject, reflecting the way that teachers of particular disciplines are organised. While these matrices are a useful guide to the most important learning within a given subject, they aren’t mandatory. Teachers can build cross-curricular or integrated courses from across matrices, just as they can now. However, with fewer, larger standards, each achievement standard will have a better grounding in the most important learning drawn from the National Curriculum.

Myth: Moving towards a 50:50 ratio of internal to external assessment means 50% exams in every subject.

An important part of the changes to NCEA is that external assessment won’t just mean exams.

At the moment only a handful of subjects have external assessments which aren’t exams – we want to see assessments like portfolios and performances become more common in more subjects. A 50:50 ratio may also not be appropriate for every subject, and we will be working with subject associations to understand what will work in each discipline.

Finally, not every course will need to use the examined standard(s). For example, a course may be 10 credits and entirely internally assessed.

Examples of other forms of external assessment might include:

  • portfolios
  • reports
  • Common Assessment Tasks (assessments completed in-school outside the usual exam period, but using a centrally-set task)
  • performances
  • investigations.

Myth: Students will now have high-stakes assessment from Year 7 in literacy and numeracy.

We know that students make progress in literacy and numeracy – and across the curriculum – at different rates. At the moment, students wait until they start NCEA Level 1 to confirm that they have the literacy and numeracy skills to succeed, which can mean they find themselves unequipped to tackle learning in Years 11 to 13.

Our changes to literacy and numeracy are designed to allow students to have their literacy and numeracy assessed as and when they’re ready, so that they can understand early whether they’re ready, on track, or may need further support to get ready for NCEA.

By ensuring students can work at their own pace towards literacy and numeracy over a number of years, the pathway to NCEA readiness will be much less high-stakes (but more reliable) than it is currently.