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Coddington’s Liberty Belle – NCEA

Coddington’s Liberty Belle – NCEA

For the past nine years I've been beating my head against a concrete wall and finally the cracks are appearing. That wall started out in about 1995 as Lockwood Smith's "Seamless Education". It is now Trevor Mallard's NCEA.

In this battle I have not been alone, although in the media, few were brave enough to challenge the dumbing down this 'qualification system' aids and abets. Jenny Chamberlain at North & South magazine was one. Lindsay Perigo in The Free Radical was another.

John Morris, headmaster of Auckland Grammar, bravely challenged both National and Labour governments to prove students would benefit from a one-size-fits-all NCEA qualifications system.
And now, if the recent debacle over Cambridge High School isn't enough proof for Education Minister Trevor Mallard, then a weekend newspaper ad should finally convince him that the NCEA must go.

And the statement came from an unexpected quarter.

Otago University Associate Professor in Education Howard Lee went public with the truth that many parents and teachers have known for months. "NCEA is fatally flawed," Howard Lee said in the headline. ".the secondary school assessment system that New Zealand has chosen to implement is fatally flawed and we are positioning high school students as guinea pigs in a bold and risky experiment. We have become obsessed with educational outcomes and disinterested in the processes that underpin effective teaching and learning," this academic continued.

"What the NCEA does is to reduce education to discrete and measurable learning outcomes and then to make students and teachers accountable for those outputs...in breaking subject content down into parts it is rather like dismantling a car engine, identifying all the components but being unable to put it back together again. Knowledge...is not promoted."

And so say all of us.

NCEA is all about credits and nothing about knowledge. It is a funnel through which we attempt to force our brightest, middle and least able students in a socialist attempt to have them all come out the same.

It doesn't work. It has never worked. It will never work, and schools should be allowed to dump the NCEA. I know some schools, teachers and parents like it, and that's fine. I believe in choice, so I wouldn't deny them that. But I reckon if we got some decent competition into our state school system, by allowing the funding to follow the child and all parents (not just the affluent) to have real choice in their child's education, parents would quickly find out just how vapid the NCEA really is.

But competition is the F-word in education. For some bizarre reason, we allow parents to choose their house, their car, the family doctor they send their child to - the politician they vote for - but only parents with money can have choice in education.

The last National Government introduced this system - despite it being totally discredited overseas.

Will Bill English dump the NCEA? Just a few weeks ago his colleague and former Education Minister Lockwood Smith had the grace to tell me he'd made a few mistakes in education, which he'd like to correct.
Like Professor Lee, my concern with NCEA is not "based on a nostalgia-glazed assessment of our education system in the past". Yes, School Certificate had its faults, but Bursary was a gold-plated, internationally recognised exam. So why are we chucking out babies with their Johnsons baby soap murked bathwater?

If National becomes government at the next election and wants to do just one thing for the future generations of New Zealand it will pinch another ACT policy. It will bring back standards and national exams so students, parents, universities and employers have a qualification they can trust.
National would do well to heed the words concluding Professor Lee's advertisement: SAPERE AUDE or DARE TO BE WISE.

Yours in liberty,

Deborah Coddington

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