Fellow guinea pig rues the day NCEA was introduced

Sam Hiebendaal finishes his article in favour of the NCEA by saying, “Next time you hear someone denounce NCEA, ask them
how much they really know about it. Ask some questions. Do some research.”

Sam has failed to do what he is asking others to do. If he had asked some questions he most likely would have realised how
much the NCEA holds back the brightest.

Like Sam, I was one of the guinea pig class of 2004. The countless hours we spent waiting for teachers to try to sort out
problems with NCEA have left me leaving school with a bitter hatred of the system.

Sam’s article almost makes me cry with the way it attempts to cover NCEA’s flaws and make it appear to be better than the
exams it replaced.

At the end of year 9, I achieved well enough to move from a third-stream form class to the first stream for year 10 at Mt Albert
Grammar School.

The school has a policy of accelerating students in the top class at year 10. They are taught year 11 science, English and
mathematics.

That year, 2001, was also the last year of School Certificate exams. My classmates and I were among a handful of students
who sat exams under the old and the new systems. I have to say that I liked the old exams a lot better.

NCEA would be all right if it had been better implemented and not rushed. It was poorly planned and not tested well enough
before it was introduced.

No student who left school last year will forget the problems of 2002 – the teacher strikes, the student strikes, the problems with
the implementation of NCEA, being entered into wrong standards, NZQA changing standard criteria half-way through the year
resulting in students having to re-sit internal standards that they had already passed … the list goes on.

Since then NCEA has improved, but it is still not a worthy replacement for the tried and true methods of the old system.
Confusion still reigns.

Sam says, “grades of Inadequate, Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit or Excellence are given for each achievement standard based
on whether the student met certain criteria.

“These criteria are given to teachers in the form of a marking schedule. Before marks are finalised, they are moderated by a
teacher from outside that school.”

First, the grade of Inadequate does not exist. Sam’s article was the first time I had ever seen the supposed grade.
Criteria are not given to teachers in the form of a marking schedule. There is an achievement standard matrix which details
briefly what the different requirements are for achieving the different grades and is followed by some short explanatory notes.
Also, not all work is moderated. Only a small amount is sent away for moderation. The teachers will normally know which pupils’
work will be moderated so they mark that work better than the rest.

Sam says percentages don’t mean anything. Percentages tell you a lot more than not achieved, achieved, merit or excellence.
NCEA gives you a diversity of four.

In the fairy-tale land NCEA you can get a mark of excellence which ranges from about 80-100 per cent but in reality there is a
big difference between 80 per cent and 100 per cent.

If you got 100 per cent you answered every question correctly but if you got 80 per cent you only answered four in five
questions correctly.

Also, Sam’s comment about the grade point average being the same as a percentage is false. The grade point average is not
the same as a percentage; it never was designed to be. The grade point average works by getting your top 80 credits and
multiplying them by set values to give you a total mark out of 320.

The sad thing about the grade point average is that it is flawed by NCEA being flawed.

Take sixth-form history and English as examples. For three credits for an essay in English you have to write 400 words but to
get three credits in history you have to write at least 600.

If you achieved merit for both on the grade point average you would still only receive 12 points even though you need to do
more work for the history credits, which are also harder to pass.

Having come through both old and new systems I can honestly say that, in my opinion, NCEA is a complete waste of taxpayers’
money and the Government should have listened to the proverb – if it is not broken don’t fix it.