External exams would be scrapped for the first year of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) under proposals unveiled today.

A long-awaited discussion document on reforming NCEA proposes that NCEA Level 1, normally sat in Year 11, should be halved from 80 credits to 40, involving just internally-assessed literacy and numeracy tests and a project chosen by each student.

The other NCEA levels 2 and 3 would also be drastically reformed, with 20 out of the 80 credits required for each year coming from a "pathway" course such as a trades course, a research project or a "community action project".

The proposals are outlined in the Government's online "Education Conversation". No closing date has been stated but Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he would take recommendations to Cabinet next February.

Advertisement

The public consultation includes four "Make Your Mark" competitions for young people aged 5 to 20 to say what education means to them, share their NCEA experiences, prepare their schools' submissions on the proposals and re-design the whole NCEA system.

The competitions close on July 29 and August 31 and offer cash prizes of up to $5000, laptops and tickets to a Design Lab event in Wellington in October.

The proposals, packaged as "six big opportunities", have been developed by a seven-member advisory group led by Jeremy Baker, a former chief executive of the Industry Training Federation who is now chief insight officer for Beef and Lamb NZ.

They aim to change students' focus in their last three years of schooling from accumulating credits to coherent "rich learning" with clear pathways to further education and jobs.

The six "big opportunities" are:

1. Reduce NCEA Level 1 to 40 internally-assessed credits with two parts - literacy and numeracy, and a project "driven by learners' passions".

2. Tighten literacy and numeracy requirements, which students can currently meet by achieving many credits that are not directly related to English or maths; but also look at broadening the definition of "literacy" to include "digital, financial or civic literacy".

3. Require at least 20 out of the 80 credits needed for both Levels 2 and 3 to come from "pathways" such as trades courses, research projects and community work in partnership with outside employers, tertiary institutions and community groups.

4. Reduce the huge number of small chunks of learning that now earn credits to a smaller number of larger chunks, encouraging schools and students to co-develop more coherent courses for each learner.

5. Redesign what is now the NZ Qualifications Authority's record of each student's achievement to include extracurricular activities and community work, describing each student's strengths and achievements in a format like a curriculum vitae (CV).

6. Scrap NCEA and scholarship fees and extend special assessment conditions such as reader-writers to more students including those with English as a second language, to reduce barriers to passing NCEA.