Secondary school principals, the poor dears are all in a tiz

Perhaps you could help the secondary principals, the poor dears are all in a tiz trying to work out why there was a fall in the number of students passing UE, a fall from 71 per cent in 2013 to 58 per cent in 2014.

Principals, however, are beating around the bush so tentatively, that the pheasants of truth can be considered as being left entirely undisturbed.

Sandy Pasley, the new SPANZ president, said ‘it simply came down to student preparedness’.

Student preparedness?

Came down to that?


Suddenly, out-of-the-blue, a 13 per cent drop?


Up to now, I had always thought, secondary teachers played some part in that preparation process, small as it apparently must be, but there to be found if you know where to look. But apparently not.

Silly me, how out of touch I’ve become. It must be the digital revolution – students these days must trot along to school, be informed of NCEA requirements, told to work them out, and then to get on with it. (And if perhaps, you want your subject teacher, try one of the local primary, where he or she is serving the community of schools.)

Oh, you want the principal, well he or she is deep in conference with other principals (meat pasties, salmon sandwiches).

Sandy goes on to say ‘it appeared students had been sprung by the new policy of needing 14 credits in three approved subjects.’

As if by a tiger?

And the teachers too?

Or was the ‘new policy of needing 14 credits …’ too much to take in?

It’s a mystery!

Or was it the ‘three approved subjects’ that was too much?

Perhaps, teachers in the three years available didn’t get round to asking what they were.

The PPTA manifesto has helping the poor as its prime motivation, so perhaps they were simply too busy collecting for the Salvation Army

What could those new approved subjects have been: Fabric, te reo, retailing, numeracy, literacy?

Who knows? It’s a mystery!

I hasten to the executive director of Universities of New Zealand.

Aha! According to Chris Whelan the new policy of needing 14 credits in the three approved subjects had long been signalled.

It appears the new policy was far from sprung.

More tortoise-crawled, than tiger-sprung (as so colourfully conveyed by Sandy Pasley).

Chris recommends something called a ‘wiggle room’ – well OK, but it seems Jeff has already had a significant influence.

He continues: ‘To get into university today, students need both NCEA level 3 and University Entrance. Students need to be studying sufficient literacy and numeracy credits.’

‘Aha – that has solved that one.’

But it doesn’t explain why the sudden drop – schools after all are boasting almost perfect pass rates in NCEA; NCEA apparently is a piece of cake, so why the drop?

Sandy is off again. (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Sandy, Sandy, I already feel I have got close to you.)

‘… students needed to take more responsibility in knowing what is required of them.’

‘..  it was likely that some students didn’t take notice until it was too late.’ (Very Jeff-like.)

But Sandy, Sandy, Sandy – there is something missing from our relationship.

You are just not taking me there.

I resort to Grease in my despair:

Stranded at the drive in

Branded a fool

What will they say

Monday at school?

Sandy can’t you see

I’m in misery

I sit and wonder why, oh?

You left me oh Sandy

Oh Sandy, baby someday

When high school is done

Somehow, someway

Our two worlds will be one

Sandy, Sandy, why oh Sandy?

With Sandy not satisfying, I have to go elsewhere for answers, perhaps back to Chris.

‘Although there was no direct evidence as to why so many students failed to gain UE last year, the three-subject requirement was likely at fault.’

My goodness, he’s on to it, thank God for the cognitive genius of academia … but …

Yeah … but … um … they were still just NCEA weren’t they?

It wasn’t Ijoid, Iibikio, or Gur was it? just plain old, everyday NCEA?

Here we have the best brains in the business, and it’s still a mystery. Here we have Sandy, head of that august body SPANZ, putting it down to the students being sprung on; and Chris, executive director of Universities New Zealand only able to say it was ‘likely’ the new three-subject requirement and recommending a ‘wiggle room’.

Enough! the garlic to the disordered senses of these eminent people is sitting exams  against the fraud on the children’s intellect of internal credits. 

With those three approved subject there was demanded a slight increase in the number of children having to sit exams to get UE.

This combined with children failed by primary schools for not being taught to think, with children diverted to easier options to keep the risk of failure down, and with the significant failure rate of certain groups in particular when they get to university – is an education scandal. And the only genuine commentary available on the frailties of the New Zealand education system.

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5 Responses to Secondary school principals, the poor dears are all in a tiz

  1. kellyned says:

    We have a number of students who simply choose not to pursue UE because it doesn’t fit with their intended career direction. Whilst a wider range of courses fitted into the UE requirements they gathered up that qualification along the way. However these often were students who simply never intended a university pathway. With the narrowing of acceptable course options they were never going to actively pursue UE.
    That doesn’t make them failures – just not university/academically inclined. There has been a huge development in alternative pathways for a very significant number of students who would have, in the relatively recent past have simply left school. We now have these students staying on into year 13 and even some coming back in year 14, usually seeking particular credits.
    Any school that suddenly woke up and discovered a bunch of students had not made UE were simply asleep on the job. Our students and staff were well aware.
    However if we just look superficially at the data our UE results took a hit, but we knew it was coming.
    I was rather intrigued that some universities were surprised at reduced intakes – did they really think that their changing of the rules would have no impact upon their enrolments? That should hardly have been a surprise!

  2. Kelvin says:

    Yes all good points – we are talking here of students who were intending to get UE; the point of discrimination was the exam – if it were internal credits the results would have would have been different. I have taught NCEA and liked internal credits as helping learning, but when the pinch was on, I was well aware that high stakes exerted severe distortionary pressures. I still think children’s attitudes, aspirations, and abilities are being affected and narrowed at primary. And we can do much better.

  3. catharina says:

    Simply put, NZ students are sliding ….fast !
    And will keep sliding down down down under the current Education Ministry and Minister.

    • John Carrodus says:

      And there you have it Catharina. Our young will continue to slide… and as Kelvin puts it, due to our primary age children having their attitudes, aspirations and abilities being crushed in the rush to appease defunct ERO/MOE sociopolitic economic driven idealology. Like the new economic reality bubble wrap economy, the present educational ponzi scheme is running on dodgy debt based credit. Our future generations are suffering from a narrowed curriculum delivered by exhausted teachers forced into spending most of their time and energy into pushing their paradigm envelopes to the far reaches of someone else’s current fashionable risky educational construct…..all at our kid’s expense. This will not change until there is the political will to do so. I see no sign of that yet.

  4. joceje says:

    Once upon a time I.e before the great ed reforms of Tomorrow’s schools, school certificate exams were scaled to produce a mean of Around 50%. Those who passed moved to Sixth form eligible for Sixth form certificate. In fact the grades for SFC were generated by the School cert results. Of these people around 20% became eligible for entry to universities, and tertiary ed. qualifications Hence the SFC and UE acted as a barrier to improving NZ productivity. Guess who passed? It’s racist nature was made obvious at the education hui at Waahi in 1989(?).
    The problem for secondary schools and the minister is that we carry the normal curve around in our head, and mentally grade people in accordance with it. The link for the universities is that they are funded as a result of who gets in. Change the requirements I.e improve standards, and they face less funding. It’s the consequence of the standardised norm. Hence university administrators up competition as a result. But why? Achievement at school is not a natural genetic thing like arm length or strong thighs, but a learned way of behaving in response to the written word.

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