Despite an increased focus on "meaningful" skills-based study some teenagers are still taking spurious NCEA standards - learning about toilet cleaning, household shopping and shift work. The detailed student entry data was uncovered as part of a Herald investigation into soaring high school pass rates. The number of students with the benchmark NCEA Level 2 rose more than 10 per cent in the past five years, and the data showed large chunks of the credits earned came from more skills-based subjects. READ MORE: • NCEA: The only brown kid in the room • Are exams only for the elite? • Inside the world of high school academies Figures showed the most popular last year were hospitality, tourism and outdoor recreation, closely followed by construction trades - largely areas with demand for workers. It follows a push from the Government around its "vocational pathways" policy, to ensure credits earned during NCEA led somewhere useful post-school. However, data showed a miscellaneous category named "Core Generic" also had very high entry numbers - alongside a bunch of standards described as "garbage". Among those were a handful of entries for cleaning credits, including courses where students learned about emptying bins, clearning toilets and washing floors. More than 700 students also took a course on "purchasing household consumables", and 16 took a course on "managing shift work". A standard requiring students to "demonstrate knowledge of law enforcement" had 1700 entries, a course on "anger issues" had 3500, and another on solving issues at rental properties had 8000. Other more popular courses included "making filter coffee", a major part of hospitality, which had 18,000 entries in five years. Most of the standards pertain to industry qualifications, and were offered under the Government's Youth Guarantee scheme, where secondary students can attend tertiary training while still enrolled at school. Some attend tertiary full time, and others go to school for part of the week. Former Auckland Grammar principal John Morris, a long-time NCEA critic, said some of the standards were "garbage", although the number of those kind of standards had been reduced. "Why you'd develop a standard for that kind of thing is beyond me. Some things, like woodwork, that's a skill. The others are just manual labour." Morris thought NCEA needed more rigorous assessment within the vocational subjects, and mandatory core subjects, to raise quality. He also said there needed to be consideration as to which pathways were pushed by schools. "I think hospitality is the flavour of the month. The students will probably get a job, but is it going to be great for the country that we've got a lot more baristas? However PPTA president Angela Roberts said the standards did not mean the vocational side of NCEA should be dismissed wholesale. "The thing that makes my heart sink is that there will be a lot of people who will instantly draw the conclusion that NCEA is broken because there are a few kids doing these standards," she said. "I'm not saying that learning how to make coffee isn't important for people that will employ those students, it's about making sure it's at the right level in comparison with the achievement standards." She believed there needed to be an "alignment" so skills-based standards were more aligned with academic ones. NCEA is made up of skills-based (unit) and academic (achievement) standards. Students need 80 credits to pass and they can come from any standard and any subject. Although achievement standards were recently assessed to ensure each carried roughly the same level of work and difficulty, the same had not been done with unit standards, which were "owned" by industry rather than government. Roberts said any work done should allow it to retain its diverse range of options, including the more vocational subjects, she said. Skills-based standards have undergone a major push in recent years, as the Ministry of Education released its "vocational pathways" programme, which aims to get students studying more a coherent mix of subjects, and towards the government target of 85 per cent passing NCEA by the end of this year. In line with that, more students are able to attend trades academies or other secondary-tertiary programmes. Manukau Institute of Technology's director of external relations Stuart Middleton said the movement was a "quiet revolution".