Michelle Dickinson, best known as Nanogirl, is among a group of innovative thinkers to advise Education Minister Chris Hipkins on a review of the NCEA.

Last night, the scientist told the Weekend Herald she wanted to challenge conventional thinking around New Zealand's education system.

It was world-leading in the diverse range of subjects available for students, said Dickinson, who is concerned about the over-assessment of students and wants to free up more time to "deep dive" into learning.

I wanted a group of advisers with diverse and potentially disruptive views to challenge us and I am confident they will do that

One area she wants to focus on is how students use resources like the internet and how teachers can guide them to good content as well as getting students to challenge their views about the content they are learning.


The review, which will also advise the Ministry of Education, was set up yesterday to create a discussion document that will form the basis of a wider, public consultation on NCEA, starting in April.

"The NCEA review is a hugely important opportunity to refine and modernise what has been a very well-performing qualification system to ensure it serves the needs of our secondary students and prepares them for life in this modern age," Hipkins said.

The advisory group would receive input from stakeholders, including students, parents, whānau, teachers, school leaders, tertiary providers, iwi, employers, and members of the wider community, he said.

The advisory group will be chaired by Jeremy Baker who has a background in the development of qualifications policy in New Zealand. The other members are Barbara Cavanagh, Pauline Waiti, Jonathan Gee, Arizona Leger and Charles Darr.

"I wanted a group of advisers with diverse and potentially disruptive views to challenge us and I am confident they will do that," Hipkins said.

He said over-assessment of students and heavy workloads for teachers were at the top of the list of issues to look at.

"And there's a lot more than this, including looking at the role of each level of NCEA, particularly the structure and relevance of NCEA Level 1 and whether all young people should attempt it.

"My youth advisory group of students will provide input into the process, and I am looking forward to their contribution.

"I will also be writing to Opposition MPs Nikki Kaye and David Seymour to invite them into the consultation process."

Towards the end of the year Hipkins will produce a set of recommendations that will be released early next year in a report that will also lay out the next steps to implementation.