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Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland has become the latest school to offer students a choice between NCEA or the International Baccalaureate programme.

Diocesan principal Ann Mildenhall said today students would have the choice between the diploma programme and National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) from next year.

There are 352 secondary schools in New Zealand, with around 136,000 students sitting NCEA last year across all three levels.

About 39 schools - mostly in the Auckland area - offer alternative assessment based on internationally accepted examinations, such as the Cambridge exams.

Mrs Mildenhall said Diocesan would offer senior students the choice of studying for the two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma or NCEA qualification at Years 12 and 13.

The school had considered introducing the diploma since 2004 and applied to the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) for authorisation in October 2006, she said.

"It has been a rigorous process that we undertook only after consulting thoroughly with our board, our teachers, our students and our parents and weighing up other options,"

"When we had all of the facts in front of us, the overwhelming feeling was that the IB Diploma was the best choice." Mrs Mildenhall said.

Mrs Mildenhall said the IB Diploma programme was an internationally recognised qualification which was an excellent preparation for university studies.

In May, Wellington school Scots College said it would spend $150,000 a year to roll out the IB programme to offer students an alternative.

Several private schools have dumped NCEA, which was brought in to replace the old School Certificate and University Entrance examinations.

Criticism of NCEA led the Government to announce changes in May to the system, with greater recognition of students' achievements and failures.

Education Minister Steve Maharey said from this year students' NCEA certificates would say whether they gained them with "excellence", "merit" or just "achieved" them.