New NCEA guidelines announced this week have been slammed for "succumbing to mediocrity".
The guidelines, issued by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, recognise the disruption to young people's learning as a result of the eight-week lockdown and thus schools can award credits for such activities as buying groceries for the family and identifying and managing stress.
At first read, it does sound like "PC gone mad", a favourite phrase of talkback callers.
Auckland Grammar School headmaster Tim O'Connor says the credits will demean the rigour of the national qualification and the National Party's brand spanking new education spokesperson, Nicola Willis, agrees. She says it's a system that could be open to abuse.
However, the Secondary Principals Association says the credits will only be used in a few specific cases and the credits have really been designed for students who had been particularly challenged during lockdown - for example, not having access to online learning. And the schools will assess at-home learning through interviews with the students, written descriptions by the students and interviewing family members, employers or people involved in community projects where they had student volunteers.
So there is some testing of the skills learned during lockdown. When I think back to sitting my School C, it's hard to argue that the subjects I was taught and the way I studied was superior to NCEA. I knew it would be touch and go whether I passed Latin. I also knew there was a translation part to the exam worth 20 points.
So in the lead up to my Latin exam, I memorised all 20 chapters of Caesar's Gallic Conquests, knowing one of those chapters would be on the paper. It was just a matter of committing the chapters to memory until the day of the exam. It worked, I scraped through with 58 per cent and from that day to this, I have never needed to translate another word of Latin.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
I have no doubt I would have been better off learning how to "produce, implement and reflect on a plan to improve my own personal wellbeing" (worth three credits under the new guidelines) than I was learning how to decline Latin verbs.
It can't have been an easy time for young Kiwis. Navigating your teenage years is difficult enough without suddenly having the world as you know it undergoing a seismic change. One minute you're worrying about global warming destroying the planet, the next you have a deadly virus threatening to wipe out humankind.
You feel things so much more intensely when you're a teenager and it would have been doubly hard if you were living in a home where there was financial stress and uncertainty about the future.
Trying to keep up with school work without the structure of classes, teachers and timetables would have been difficult – even more so if you didn't have access to computers or broadband. So if the New Zealand Qualifications Authority is willing to cut the kids some slack, I'm fine with that.
Life only really begins once you've left school. If your school days are the happiest days of your life, then quite frankly, you've peaked too soon. If you can read, write, and do basic sums and if you know how to research – to find out what you need to know – when you leave school, then you have the skills you need to really start learning.
• Kerre McIvor Mornings, Newstalk ZB, weekdays 9am-12pm