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NZ’s dual secondary system

I, random person, officially conclude that New Zealand is well and truly a nation with two secondary education systems.

Perhaps I’m a bit late on this. But my conclusion was not only because there are some 40 schools registered with the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). It become apparent to me that this increasing division is being recognised — and accommodated for. Hence, I have two rants: praise for the organisations that allow for this division, and criticism for those that caused it.

This, you say, seems weird. Surely I should be criticising both? Surely, if the organisations didn’t allow for it, those that caused it would stop? That, you see, would turn it into a political football. And, even though admittedly education is somewhat a political football in New Zealand, I refuse to see the matter from any perspective aside from those of a secondary school student.

Those that allow for divisions…

Take, as my first example, the University of Auckland. The University clearly knows that, whether it likes it or not, New Zealand’s top students will inevitably come from both CIE and NCEA, and it has no choice but to accept both if it is to avoid disadvantaging students. So, it lists criteria for both NCEA and CIE. (I don’t know about other universities regarding this matter.)

Then, as I discovered today, ESA Publications is seeking authors for CIE study guides. I figure they see a market in it. I may politely point out to them that those who take CIE probably consider themselves above study guides, but that’s not the point. My point is that the students who take CIE are not some insignificant minority — their consideration is equally as important as students of NCEA.

Because, people, let’s face it: whichever way you look at it, at the end of the day, all students are just students studying for some secondary qualification. And a qualification that probably becomes lost as you go into tertiary education. So, it figures, why side one? They’re still all students.

…and those that cause it.

I mentioned earlier that those who take CIE probably consider themselves above study guides. Firstly, I apologise for that and in advance to anyone who takes CIE but does not fall into that category.

But, the CIE-takers are not leaders; they are wusses who could not be prepared to put in the effort to reform a flawed national secondary qualification. Good things, they say, take time. These people just didn’t seem to have any.

I mean, of course NCEA’s going to flawed for its first few years. But few would argue against its fundamental principle: to allow every student to achieve to his potential. Initially, it would inevitably be a bit off its target. But, given the attention it’s (finally) had in recent months, it’s getting there.

I bet that, in several years’ time, the schools that departed NCEA in favour of one that was already there, given of course that NCEA is given the attention it needs, those schools will come back to New Zealand’s national secondary school qualification. That "given", I admit, is a huge given — NZQA needs to be organised and, more importantly, the Ministry of Education needs to be in good hands — but, when it does, CIE will vanish from New Zealand’s face. And these schools that took CIE will have just taken a detour that’s away from the main one but is slightly smoother. In the end, they’re just the ones that divided New Zealand just to see themselves an easier path.

I shan’t begin a defence of NCEA, nor point out how similar CIE and NCEA are and how few really know what’s in them, I’ll do that some other day.

But shame on the people that left New Zealand to cater for themselves, and good on those that realise that all students are students.

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