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Schools embrace flexibility

9 August 2006

Schools embrace flexibility of National Qualifications Framework

Schools are using the flexibility of the National Qualifications Framework and NCEA to be increasingly creative in the courses they offer to students, research shows.

Two reports now available on the NZQA website ( follow research by NZQA monitoring and analysis staff, begun in 2004.

A pilot study in late-2004, Changing courses: preliminary investigation, involved interviews with teachers in 15 schools and focus groups involving 120 students. It was followed in 2005 by a national survey of 453 schools (including eight in the Cook Islands) forming the basis of Changing courses: national survey.

Two of the key aims of the new qualifications system, set up in 2002, were to provide more flexible pathways for students and to increase choice in the range of courses.

NZQA Chief Executive Karen Poutasi said the results showed good progress was being made in these areas. They are also consistent with previous research, notably Catching the Knowledge Wave?, by Jane Gilbert, and Shaping Our Futures, published by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

"The Changing Courses reports are a valuable addition to research into use of the National Qualifications Framework by schools," Dr Poutasi said.

"There is evidence that introduction of the NCEA has allowed greater flexibility in courses that lead to national qualifications, and encouraged schools to be more creative in course design. They are able to select standards that meet their students' needs."

The research showed an average of 77 courses were available for senior students, with size of school and availability of resources key factors in the number of courses offered.

Since 2002, most schools have made course changes, with 61 percent introducing non-traditional courses such as Pacific studies, digital design, and sports coaching. New courses that assessed standards from a range of learning areas – e.g. a Music, Performing Arts, and Technology course – were introduced by 32 percent of schools.

Some 23 percent of schools had combined existing courses – e.g. Geography and History, or Economics and Accounting.

The reports indicated that while schools were generally positive about the NCEA and its impact on course design, work was still required to overcome the perception in some schools that National Certificates other than NCEA were for low-achieving students.

"It is encouraging that the reports show the majority of staff felt this was misguided," Dr Poutasi said. "They indicated that all National Certificates were equal in value and were meeting the range of abilities and interests of students."

Also now online is a synthesis of research literature on standards-based assessment, Standards-based assessment in the senior secondary school, commissioned by NZQA and carried out by the College of Education, Massey University.


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