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Maxim Institute - 21 December 2006

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 236 21 December 2006


New report recommends major changes to the NCEA Positive development in Australian 'hate speech' case Traditions that hold us together

MPs to debate social justice at Parachute 07 Young people still value marriage Video games shape young people's actions New Policy Paper on current issues in Maori schooling


A new report prepared for the Education Ministry and the NZQA recommends major changes to the NCEA, including a recommendation that schools should be able to discard all external national examinations in favour of internal assessment.

The major problem with more internal assessment is the variability of grades between schools, subjects and year groups, due to the independence of schools when they moderate pupils' work. A State Services Commission report in 2005 found that the system of moderation adopted for internal assessment could not guarantee "year to year consistency" in grades.

An additional problem is that teachers may "teach to the test" so that grades and results improve without pupil learning and performance necessarily improving. Teachers have "exemplars" to guide consistency in assessment and over time these exemplars can drive teaching as they become well known. Results can thus improve with little actual improvement in the pupils' learning.

While the recommended changes are supposed to make life easier for teachers and principals, they could be disastrous for pupils. Pupils need to have confidence in their grades and know that the marks they receive are a true and accurate reflection of their work. Parents also need to have an accurate picture of how their child is achieving in the schooling system and employers need to gain an accurate picture of a potential applicant's qualifications. A move to greater internal assessment and away from examinations will only exacerbate the problems with validity and reliability already apparent in the NCEA.

The number of schools offering alternatives to the NCEA, such as the Cambridge International Examination or the International Baccalaureate, has risen rapidly since 2001 despite major restrictions on doing so. In 2005, pupils from over 40 schools sat an alternative examination. With these latest recommendations, it can be expected that this number will only increase.

Read Achievement Standards Consistency Review

Read an Issue Snapshot on the alternatives to the NCEA


Christmas is a special time for family, friends, faith and food. But it is also one of the few times each year that we hear most clearly the voices of our ancestors and feel the pull of the organic and living traditions which hold us together.

There is no law requiring us to put up Christmas trees, to send cards and letters, exchange presents or sing carols. There is only custom; immemorial and living custom which we have received from our ancestors. Thus, we have carols like in dulce jubilo, cards with snow and red robins, Saint Nick in his sleigh. We did not invent these things; we received them. We worry about people "on their own" at Christmas time because we are not on our own. We hear the voice of custom, convention and continuity which is provided by tradition.

Christmas is a good example of organic tradition, an expression of what we value enough to pass on to the coming generation. It is fashionable in modern New Zealand to discard the old, to deny the inheritance we have received from those who were before us. It takes a feast like Christmas to remind us that the body politic is a living trust between those now alive, those who have gone before, and those to come.

It is appropriate then that we focus on children and the elderly at Christmas, and that we are lifted out of ourselves to be connected with something bigger and higher. When we add to and observe traditions, we recognise the pull of the old, the good and the true. And, paradoxically, we are inspired to take up the trust and move into a new year with joy. In its imperfect and often flawed way, Christmas is a source of connection. That is one reason why we ought to value it.


The high-profile case of the two Australian pastors convicted of "religious vilification" has taken another turn. The Supreme Court of Victoria has upheld their appeal against their convictions under the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

The two pastors (one of whom is of Pakistani origin and an expert in the Qur'an) were convicted by a Tribunal in 2002 after they gave a seminar on Muslim beliefs and practices and published various articles on aspects of the Muslim faith. The Supreme Court has now set aside the original penalties and the case will be re-heard by a different Judge in the Tribunal.

In stark contrast to the decision of the Tribunal, the Supreme Court of Victoria held that there was nothing in the seminar "which rendered [the pastors'] statements more likely to incite the audience to hatred and other relevant emotions of or towards Muslims". The Supreme Court also placed importance on the "plea" by the pastors to love Muslims and found that the hurt feelings of the three Muslims who attended the seminar were "largely if not wholly irrelevant".v

Laws against so-called "hate speech", such as the Victorian law, are a major infringement on freedom of speech and freedom of religion and are unnecessary in a robust democracy. An inquiry is currently underway in New Zealand to determine whether we should have laws against "hate speech", although it has been put on hold until the next Parliamentary term.

Read the decision of the Supreme Court

Read a Maxim Institute Policy Paper on "hate speech"



In January 2007, the nation's leaders will come together at the Parachute Music Festival in Hamilton to debate what needs to happen for social justice to flourish in New Zealand. Maxim Institute is pleased to host the Political Forum on Social Justice which will feature MPs from five of the political parties represented in Parliament.

Details about the Political Forum


According to an ASB Bank survey, marriage is still valued by young people. The Bank has released some details of its findings in the Youth Confidence Index, which shows that marriage and family are high on the list of young people's ambitions.

Read more about the ASB Youth Confidence Index


The Office of Film and Literature Classification has released a report surveying the effects of video games and movies on young people aged 15 to 18. Of the 460 students interviewed, 64 percent acknowledged games and movies had affected their thinking, while 24 percent felt their actions had also been impacted. The effects were negative in some cases and positive in others. The report confirms what we already know and what public policy should reflect; that what young people watch and play shapes their minds and, in turn, their deeds.

Read the report Young People's Use of Entertainment Mediums


This week Maxim Institute published a new Policy Paper: Current issues in Maori schooling which is available free on our website. The Paper identifies key and unique challenges facing Maori pupils and recommends some practical policy initiatives to help improve educational outcomes.

Read Current issues in Maori schooling


Maxim Institute wishes to thank all our Real Issues readers for their interest this year. It has been our pleasure to bring Real Issues to you each week and we look forward to bringing you more important news and insightful views in 2007. From all the team at Maxim, merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy New Year.


"I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and so I say, God bless Christmas!"

Charles Dickens

A registered charitable trust, funded by donations, Maxim Institute values your interest and support.


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