Key Points:

The NZQA is allowing students to use text language - things like cul8r for "see you later" - in exams this year.

Supporters say it is a sensible reaction to the reality of modern teenagers. But critics, including school principals, say it is dumbing down.

We asked what you thought.

>> Read the story


I spent today at a teachers' workshop. As part of this workshop we discussed the difference between making text accessible to students without dumbing down the material. Text speak fits the purpose of texting short factual information to others as efficiently as possible. That is its purpose. Formal writing has its own conventions that enable us to communicate more complex ideas. They each have their place but not together. Most students I've met know this and appreciate the difference!

- Jan Davey

Advertisement

I hate marking. Mainly because I cannot resist correcting or highlighting errors in students' papers. It pains me enough to see someone saying the enzymes didn't work because they were to hot (or even, save us, two hot). Or that if the wire was in that position, the light bulb would go of. Spelling matters. Homozygous and homologous are different words with quite different meanings. There's no such thing as an adaption - it's called an adaptation. After all, what would an organism be if it lost two letters? I will, however, give credit for spelling mistakes in very specialist terms as long as what has been written still reads well enough (e.g. yes to flagalum, but no to felgalia) but it still hurts me to do so.

It is made more difficult for people to learn correct language use when it is regularly modelled so poorly by professions in which language is the main tool i.e. print media and signwriters. I regularly see errors that even a simple spelling or grammar checker would have picked up, let alone, say, an actual reader. Consider the chiropactor who works just up the road. And the bicycle shop that claimed to be having a sale on bicylces? Or how about yesterday's NZ Herald online article in which it stated "The unmeployed Mt Albert man then grabbed her shoulder but she managed to free herself from his grip." and later that "...police matched semenal DNA samples to Foss". The media has a responsibility to do better as to some degree it is an authority on the matter.

- Madeleine Ware

Text must not be used in exams. It has its place but not where explanations must be clear. Spelling and grammar should be correct so the reader knows exactly what the writer is trying to say.

- Robin

The simple answer is to use language that your audience-and whomever may come along to read what is written will be able to understand. Texting in exams is for selfish reasons; it is a selfish script for selfish purposes sent to a hidden audience. That doesn't make it "wrong" or illegitimate in its own setting and context, but that is not what "written" examinations are purposed for and the "audience" is certainly not your txt buddy.

- Simon

As a New Zealander living abroad I am embarrassed by the NZQA on this decision and did not dare show my colleagues the article.

I am thankful to the NZQA for helping me decide that I will not be educating my children in New Zealand.

- Chris

I find the direction being taken regarding teaching English to be disheartening to say the least. Trying to get good basic spelling etc taught at secondary level is virtually impossible, it is all how it sounds being acceptable rather than correct spelling. There has been a book about a London cabbie published using a lot of text type language. It is dreadful. I hope it is not the start of a trend. The beauty of language and writing is something one learns over time but initial introduction is the key. No text in any exams.

- Deborah Minchington

It's all been said already but needs to be said again and again until someone pays attention!

Whilst in Intermediate School I remember classmates using the line 'Why should I learn to do long subtraction - I have a calculator'. This from students who should've known how to do this in Primary School. But nevertheless Calculators were permitted in exams and basic math skills are now harder to come by amongst students.

This is an example of same - basic English language skills are going to go out the window when students no longer have any immediate incentive to learn how to spell and string together full sentences. In a world where teenagers and adults both seem to have trouble telling the difference between 'their' 'there' and 'they're' do we really want to be encouraging big steps backwards in the English language stakes? I think not!

- Mark Foster

I'm a student and I think this is unfair on the students that do well at school. I have been to schools abroad and New Zealand's system is already lowered itself down why should they do it again? It wont make a difference and its just allowing the students that don't care get higher grades which is unfair. Text language is degrading so why should we degrade our education systems?

- Bob Morgan

The NZQA have lost the plot entirely. The case for bringing back the pillory has never looked stronger. Unfortunately Queen Clark will deflect any attempts to hold the NZQA Corgi to account.

- Vince Jefferson

texting in exams in place of real English is the tip of the iceberg of language decline.

Literacy has fallen far enough in my lifetime but anyone who would endorse texting for anything other than mobile phone communication has to be endorsing a decline in educational standards that is totally unacceptable.

The idea that our young people determine the level of literacy acceptable going forward is to pander to laziness and degradation of our society.

We are supposed to educate them and raise their standards not accept a lowering of standards at their request.

Where the hell has this PC world taken us to?

I would like to see the return of discipline and the adults back in charge setting the standards that are acceptable again. I would like to see parents responsible for their offspring and teachers in charge of their subjects.

Correct English written and spoken is a must to preserve access to what we have and to enable understanding to be possible.

The influence of psychiatry and its agenda to bring us all down to the lowest of base values is evident here.

- Claude Moffat

Someone on this page referred to "newspeak" - the language that Winston Smith was required to use in his job in "1984". The decision to allow textspeak in a formal exam is doubleplusungood.

When these students get into the workforce will they be writing business letters to clients using textspeak?

- Jo

Honestly!? What's next, writing the exams in text speak? This really has gone too far. NCEA is a mockery already, I hate to think of how hard it'll be for our College grads to get jobs overseas, let alone prove themselves at tertiary institutions, when they've got no proper English skills. NCEA needs to GET A GRIP. Txtspeak is for cellphones and shoddy Bebo pages, not school exams. Soon enough it'll be like Newspeak, mark my words.

- Angie Wilkes

Along with allowing text language in exams, will there then be NCEA-accredited classes created where you learn standardised text language? In an exam, could someone who wrote '2moro' then argue they meant 'two moro bars'? Are universities going to start allowing students to use text language as well to cater for incoming students who have grown lax in their English skills? Sheesh.

- Lorelle Armitage

Wt? did sum1 dclr 2dy Aprl Fls Dy?

(Translation: What? Did someone declare today April Fools Day?)

- Edward Swift

It's bad enough celebrating mediocrity with unit standards but letting students use text language in exams is crazy. The NZQA is so out of touch it's ridiculous. Let the best students be the best – don't make sacrifices to pity the average.

- Terry Gordon

It's outrageous that students will be permitted to use such language. Students can forget any hope of overseas recognition of their NCEA qualifications, they may as well have received them out of a Weetbix box. What employer or higher education institute will want imbeciles? NZQA may as well not have a literacy requirement for University Entrance- it is a waste of time for teachers trying to enforce the basics of reading and writing. Language is a constantly evolving tool, I can accept that, but lets keep text language where it belongs. Students need to learn about appropriate register for various forms of communication, otherwise they'll end up knowing no better.

- Dave

Till today I was 90 per cent sure that something was wrong with New Zealand and now I am 1000 per cent sure that New Zealand is not on the right track.

- Shajsun

What a lot of bloody nonsense! One of the sad facts of the ever-loftier technological house of cards that we live in, is the ambiguity in the language that is becoming rampant (dnt frgt the chps - is that chops or chips?. While we are fortunate enough, with almost instant communication, to have the ability to clear up these muddles very quickly, this will not always be the case. In the case of the examiner marking a paper, the examinee would be right out of luck. Can you imagine the furore over that lot - endless arguments over which particular meaning was intended. Stick to the pure - it ensures clear understanding. Deviate and you risk being confused by all the txt cliques, each with their own idiosyncrasies.

- Steve Barr

While I myself do not use text speak, I absolutely cannot understand all these people claiming that it's some sort of "dumbing down" of the English language. It's simply an evolution of the language. The same sort of evolution in language that has been occurring since the English language was even first thought of. Do any of you out there speak in Shakespearian English? No? I didn't think so, but it's how English was often spoken back in the day. Language is not a static entity. It is dynamic, and if you dinosaurs don't want to adapt to change, then you will die out.

- Kieran

The sad thing about this(text)approach is that in trying to be 'cool' the NZQA is supporting the street cred approach to life that is rampant among some sections of the younger population. It will further alienate the under achievers and reduce their future prospects. Whilst there will always be a few that rise above the dross, I am certain that the majority of the unfortunate students who are allowed to practice the text approach to education will be just that! This effort is another nail in the NZQA coffin. Talk about 'dumb and dumber'!

- Ben Rennie

The worst part of this whole thing is that it's not actually a bad April Fool's joke. You can see where it's heading, though. Soon English will be deposed in all exams, and txt-speak - possibly renamed "Newspeak," - will be an official language of New Zealand. And NZQA will change the marking system of NCEA so instead of receiving an "achieved" or an "excellent," you'll get a "good" and "doubleplusgood," respectively. As the language changes, so does the way we think. This almost unbelievable development is a change for the worse.

- Joshua Drummond

What planet does the NZQA live on? Isn't the standard of literacy of those coming out of our schools low enough now?

- Max Bradford

Maybe we can have a text competition to win a qualification. It certainly won't lower the standard of graduates currently being churned out from our universities. Luckily, there are plenty of EEO jobs available with the public sector, including NZQA.

- Daniel

A further degradation of the English language, this time sanctioned by NZQA themselves. Obviously future New Zealand generations will have to learn English as a second language thanks to the joke that is NZQA. TXTlish is NOT English.

- Chris Brown

What can I say that hasn't already been said? As usual New Zealand seems to take pride in leading the way - back to the Dark and Middle Ages of Europe where there were few scholars (mainly in the religious orders) with the majority illiterate, superstitious and easily led. Will there be the usual apathetic reaction to this or are responsible and caring parents going to insist on an independent international qualification and snub the NZQA so that our country does not continue to be the laughing stock of the better educated world.

- Susan

Who is this Bali Haque ??? Some new immigrant who has now got a prominent place in the education system and most probably cannot speak good English so they want to now inflict their own interpretation of what is best for our children. What about answering all questions in Maori that's a legal language!

- Tony Bullock

I cannot believe that the NZQA, who is charged with the education of today's young people, can honestly think that it is okay to use txt language in school exams. Having been educated in Canada, I am constantly astounded by major grammatical errors being used in the media and advertising - not the least of which is the misuse of the apostrophe. We need to be encouraging increased knowledge of correct English language, not telling pupils that it is not important enough to be required under exam conditions.

- S Phillips

This is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard of!! It is encouraging our young people to answer New Zealand exam questions in what amounts to a foreign language. Not only that, but how are they going to organise consistency in marking the papers? Those of our educated people that mark these papers will all have a different interpretation of what the abbreviations are supposed to mean, and pupils may get marked down or up unnecessarily. Also, once they obtain sufficient qualifications to leave school, these pupils will be in for a great shock when they realise that the real world does not talk like that. I for one, as a prospective employer, would immediately "bin" a letter of application or CV that came to me written (in part or full) in text language.

- Phillip

Don't make New Zealand a laughing stock! The literacy rate is bad enough without this text introduction. Give our students the basic skills and they can text all they want socially.

- Tim

Once again, we are pandering to mediocrity, slovenly behaviour and ineptitude. We, the taxpayers, have invested many thousands of dollars in the so-called education of each school pupil, only to be rewarded with educators accepting this kind of trash. Perhaps so many pupils' brains are scrambled from the effects of binge drinking and drugs that they are no longer capable of expressing themselves correctly. And, yes, it is to be expected that some of these ill-educated products of the system will want to go on and become teachers of up-coming generations. Quite scary, isn't it?

- D Perston

Allowing txt language in school exams is ridiculous.

- Gendi Dwight

Another example of our education system slipping to third world standards. Bring back the basics and teach our kids how to read and write properly. Teach them respect and discipline not teach them more bad habits. But what do you expect with the PC government we have.

- Lars

Any living language will change, and each generation leaves its brand on the dictionary. Text messages (txt msgs) are merely a part of the huge burst of digital technology that is only just beginning. Being 68 now, I have witnessed major changes in the language, some I don't like (those that make language less useful, usually by blurring useful distinctions like the American use of 'alternate' instead of 'alternative') and some I do, like the new meanings of 'cool' which never really lead to any ambiguity, and add to the language rather than subtracting from it. Both these changes have made it into COED10. In my view, 'cool' is cool, but the new use of 'alternate' is uncool. Abbreviations used in texting (not yet in the COED, but it will be) should be judged on their individual merits. How? I have no idea, but that question is much more useful than that raised by Luddite principals. Has there been any outcry from principals about personalised numberplates?

- Cary Gollop

Text language has already degraded many younger students' ability to use proper English/grammar. Allowing its use under Exam Qualifications will only further the decline and does nothing to encourage or promote its use. It is not acceptable under normal everyday use in business. Why should it be allowable under exam conditions? Pity the markers!

- Tania

I teach writing at tertiary level, at two reputable universities. Over the last decade I have noticed a downward trend in the standard of writing, such that many students nowadays enter university without being able to write a sentence, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a ful stop. If NZQA believes it is helping students master skills by accepting txt wrtng, well, that will prbly confrm ppls' views of how ridiculous NZQA, once credible as a watchdog for standards, has become. Either something is correct, or it is not. There is plenty of time at NCEA level to write full, correct sentences. Don't make our job at tertiary even havrder by sending us students who will argue they have passed level three papers with text-writing, so why do we make a fuss at Uni????

- P.Fry

People have been abbreviating written language for thousands of years. Many of the English words we write today are shorter versions of older, longer words. Is it really such a big deal that a teenager writes "bcoz" instead of "because" in an exam answer about, say, population growth? Being able to write clear English is still a valuable skill today, but surely the way to test this is in an English assessment, not geography or maths.

- Robyn

The only glimmer of hope in a world in which bodies like the NZQA continue to erode the quality of education and the level of preparation of our students for the real world is that 100 per cent of the people responding to the Herald's Reader's Views recognise it as a really, really bad idea. Someone should get the sack for even suggesting this.They should certainly not be in a position where they have any degree of control over our young people.

- Tom

How dare the NZQA undermine the efforts of parents and teachers a like who have invested thousands of hours to deliver a proper education, by trying to accommodate a totally unacceptable and lazy, incomprehensible non-language. Will slang be permitted? Will spelling errors also be permitted? I have no idea who they are trying to impress or appease but their job is to assess the educational achievement of students, which does NOT include the stupid abbreviations kids send to each other on a key pad. Watch out next election if this goes through. Whoever approved this should be sacked.

- Greg

If pupils are required to answer questions in the English language, then they should complete their answers in proper written English. How is text language going to assist graduates in the workforce? Until text language is declared an official language with its own dictionary, it should be banned!

- Cheryl van Wyk

In my opinion, it is very important for students to get used to the formal English, if you are a lawyer you can't refer to the judge as "u" or to the Queen as "ur magsty". Can you?? So is not right that they make the students feel used to that in their exams. As these exams are as important as talking to a judge or the Queen. However if the time that the students have to do the test is to short, than this timing should be reviewed, to give the pupils more time to better organise their words, and their writing exams. By the way sorry about the mistakes, i am not from NZ and i am still learning English.

- Eduardo Possiede

NZQA - Text talk in exams??? what a joke. Is there anyone in that organisation who has an ounce of common sense?

- Diane

I think this is absolutely ridiculous. We're encouraging kids to be stupid and lazy. I'm only 22 and the amount of time I've seen kids, even my generation, use the wrong "there / their" is absurd. Why the hell is our countries Qualification system going to allow this. Lets just disregard the spelling that English speakers have been using for hundreds of years shall we??! What idiots! Good on the principal of Hastings Boys High.

- Gillian

Allowing text language in national examinations is a further sign of the softening of the educational system.

- David Pang

Texting is an informal form of shorthand. It's fine for personal messages, inappropriate for formal exams. What's NCEA's problem? Students just need to be taught that there is a difference between formal and informal language. This is not rocket science. No one has difficulty understanding that secretarial shorthand is not used for other subjects.

- Heather Ker

And next we will stop speaking to each other because we have forgotten how to do that. This is just another example that we a monkey republic run by a bunch of Neandertals from cave called the Beehive.

- Sheldon Heights

Dats gr8, now novels & bks will only b 20 pgs and mod shakspr will start his new bk wit, "hey bro & sis, wats up, dis bk is thou effort 2 try n show da love bet rom n jul. C abbre on pg 20, cya 4 now" NZQA executives should be sacked to even contemplate such an idea. What is the point of teaching my kids the correct spelling, grammar etc., when some idiots with power want to use the text language. GOD bless New Zealand.

- Nilesh Karmokar

So what's next? Using F words in the exam? What kind of education standard is NZQA upholding?

- Tommy

Outrageous! I can't believe we are dumbing down our population like this. What happens when these kids are out of school and in the workplace and have to submit a written job application letter ? they won't get the job that's what.

- Steve Lane

NZQA have gone mad and appear to be encouraging the information poor in allowing text English. No-one gets away with sloppy writing in our firm. NZQA obviously has no interest in supporting NCEA and will drive even more schools to IB and Cambridge. It is little wonder parents are questioning the validity of the 'new' education system when the basics of communication are being ignored. I'm a 43-year-old female MD who can text ambidextrously with both thumbs as I need to communicate with my teens, but woe betide them if I catch them using truncated English in school work.

- Jane

I agree with the principals, it is dumbing down and could eventually lead to the slow destruction of the English language and legible communication.

- Charlotte

I always wondered why many of our first year university entrants couldn't spell or construct proper sentences in essays. Thanks for the answer NCEA!

- Eleanor

The NZQA must be on drugs.

- John Pollard

I would like to see the markers trying to understand some of the text language. I find it bad enough and I see it almost every day. What is the point of teaching proper grammar and spelling if it's not going to be used? I didn't realise that good use of language was only expected in English exams, I thought it was expected every single day.

- Kelly Richards

Is there no end to the stupidity of the NZQA? How did they ever get on the board in the first place? I used to get a rap on the knuckles for "i" instead of "I" when I went to school. Now anything is tolerated. All this does is to encourage laziness. Next they will want to dumb down mathematics. It's a good job cash registers work out the change for many shop assistants, they can't even do simple mental arithmetic any more.

- Chris Faircloth

This is stupid, how can NZQA condone destroying the English language and use of correct grammar. I see enough of misspelled words, incorrect grammar and the use of the incorrect word (eg bought/brought) already. Use of abbreviations in one's own notes is fine but is not acceptable in common usage.

- Christopher Rundle

Text language is very, very wrong. That is not English. Please do not kill English. Present education system is very bad. Present days students writing has become horrible and now English is to be converted into another language by allowing text language.

- Paramm

This nonsense is just another argument for secondary school students to take the Cambridge Examinations or the International Baccalaureate. (At least until we can come up with our own credible and rigorous national qualifications.) The NCEA doesn't have any credibility.

- Ian Bruce

This decision by the NZQA is totally incomprehensible. At a time when general literacy is in free-fall, they should be raising standards not lowering them still further. The confusion over when to use apostrophes, for example, and the difference between them and simple plurals, is an indictment of our education system. It is time to teach the basics of the language at Primary school; creative writing can come when the fundamentals are clearly understood. The NZQA is not doing its job and should be reformed or disbanded.

- Susanne

Absolutely shocking that NZQA would allow incorrect spelling and language in school exams - ridiculous! Text language has already had enough of a negative impact on peoples social skills, don't let it filter into our education systems too!

- M Harris

I completely agree with Rob Sturch's view. Should a student who knows shorthand be allowed to complete their exams in shorthand? That is a well known and recognised language that is actually taught in classes, I think not. Have you called a customer service line lately or received an email only to look at it and not be able to understand half of what is being said or contained in the email? If this is not a shining example of the need for English to be used and staunchly upheld I couldn't think of a better one. As a 27-year-old, I'm part of the txt generation and will quite easily use 500 texts in 14 days in communication with friends and family but I wouldn't dream of sending a letter to one of my clients, writing a letter to the bank, the courts, or anywhere outside of my personal contacts using txt talk. Txt talk has many variations of the same word depending on the person and there is no set abbreviation for each word which would mean that certain words could be misinterpreted causing the loss of marks and there would be no end of complaints. If it ain't broke.... Don't fix it! Txt talk has it's place in society. As a personal non-formal means of communication. School exams are a formal qualification. I know if I walked into Auckland University and handed in a paper written in Txt the professor would fail me without the slightest bit of hesitation!

- Keri Carnie

What is this country coming to? NZQA is a joke!

- Sonya Eastlake

Stupid!! If we say its alright at school, it will get in to the workforce. Do you want to receive a proposal from a supplier written in txt speak? How well is a young employee going to do if their CV is written in txt speak? How are they going to succeed internationally? State of the Nation!!!!!

- Paul

Why should kids learn English if they are not going to have to use it for important things such as exams. I know if I saw an important document such as a contract or CV done in TXT speak it would end up in file 13 where it belongs. This is such a stupid move.

- Rosemary

Although people may believe that text language is a developing form of communication, I agree with the opposing view. Are the exam markers qualified to judge tex abbreviations? Being 1 to 2 generations removed from most of the students are they up to play with this quickly evolving use of communication. I think not. Their kids or grandchildren could interpret for them though. NZQA should stand up and be counted. Once these kids get into the real world reality will kick in & and they will find communicating in text abbreviations will quickly find them very restricted in their career choices. I would have thought that NZQA would be trying to trend upwards in the quality of our teaching standards, instead of trying to lead the charge downwards into chaos. In the real world people don't get prizes for just competing, lets teach our kids the value of succeeding. "Life is not fair, get used to it," Bill Gates.

- Geordie McOnie

I am thoroughly gobsmacked. I'm hoping that this article is a farcical joke. Otherwise, I'm afraid New Zealand academic authorities have lost their collective mind. This is absolutely dumbing down. To argue anything less is simply disingenuous The fact that this was even suggested is insane. I am a lecturer and I see the results of our school system every day. If New Zealand is going to compete on a global marketplace, this kind of idiotic thinking in our schools absolutely must be removed. If we want to be a backward little uneducated country with no impact or influence on the rest of the world, then this is a step in the right direction.

- Linda Jean Kenix

The NZQA wants our kids to be illiterate!!! Do something. (sack them?)

- Leanne

Let's keep full languages in exams thanks, you have to learn the basics on which to build the abbreviations and understand where they came from.

- Pete

I saw the introduction of calculators as the first step in laziness, where the brain was officially allowed to be replaced by a machine. Next the exams were taken away the exams (UE & School Cert), Now this laziness trend continues with allowing students to substitute real words for text abbreviations. I agree that it is making a mockery of the English language, and the entire school system. Kids will become dumber as a result, and unable to participate fully in other areas of life where texting is not acceptable, thereby putting them at a disadvantage.

In a system that tries to eliminate 'failure' we are setting our future generations up for the biggest failure of all. Use of cellphones in exams is banned, and the use of text language should be too.

- Lisa

Absolutely ridiculous. It makes a mockery of the essence of education. We spend all the time and money to get people to a certain level of achievement, and then say it's ok to ignore it. Pathetic move, NZQA.

- Darcia Mather

Have they gone nuts!!!?? We have enough of a problem with poor literacy standards as it is... What's next... get qualifications just by being there??

These government departments need a serious reality check!

- Nick Cowling

Allowing text-language in school exams makes a mockery of education in New Zealand and can only dumb-down the value of qualifications gained in this country.

- Ludy Colenbrander

Students should not be allowed to use txt abbreviations in exams. I was no scholar when it came to School Cert English but no teacher should be made to mark an exam that could potentially be full of abbreviations. Teachers deserve more respect & kids should be made to write appropriately no matter what the exam.

- Matt

As a 23-year-old with extensive computer skills and a passion for technology, I am more than a little appalled at the thought of students being permitted to utilise lazy, incoherent written language in a formal examination environment. This is an act that is accepting laziness in written language and is a sad mark on the standards of our esteemed qualification authority. Already we have seen the decline of reading and self-education in favour of the visual mire that is television, and I would hate to see the skill of writing lost in such a tragic manner as well.

- Cameron McLean

Just because NZQA doesn't seem to have a clear understanding of why something like correctness is important doesn't actually make it unimportant.

So taking requirements for correctness out of school training is really an incredibly daft thing to do. Things like spelling, writing clear correct English, and in general getting things right. An example - at school I used to get marked down for spelling mistakes in all subjects. Now teachers aren't allowed to deduct marks for spelling. It has been decided and entrenched in policy that spelling is unimportant. It is however still very important, it's just that NZQA couldn't think why, so they decided it's not. Just makes it a lot harder for students when they hit the real world, where there are actually consequences for not getting things right:

* The IRD can put you in jail if you don't get your tax return right.

* The police can give you a speeding ticket if you don't get your vehicle speed right.

* People die if doctors don't get things right.

* Buildings and bridges fall over if engineers and constructi