Yet again our main secondary school qualification, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement is under fire. National’s Education spokesman, Bill English is claiming that pressure is being put on markers to ensure more students are awarded higher grades.
NCEA will never be fixed, because it’s based on a false premise. That is, that knowledge can be compartmentalised and tested in little chunks. These are called “Unit Standards” and are the building blocks of both the NCEA and apprentice training, in this country. Unfortunately they are clumsy, unsophisticated, difficult to administer and easily subverted. They might be an effective way to teach monkeys to do tricks, but are no way to impart theoretical or practical knowledge to pupils or apprentices.
A good teacher or tradesman, instills in his pupil or apprentice the principles of the trade or subject being taught. This could be how fermentation effects flour in baking, the basics of geometry, or the principles of German grammar.
By understanding basic principles, the apprentice or pupil can apply his skills to varied situations. They can learn to integrate skills, to problem solve and become real masters of their art. “Unit Standards”, is an extremely clumsy and primitive approach to learning. All New Zealand’s universities have rejected it and few if any other countries have adopted this inferior system.
To get an idea of how useful “Unit Standards” are-apply them to Rugby. Imagine if Rugby coaches were required to award “unit standards” to all players.
Passing the ball-tick
Hooking the ball-tick
Jumping in the lineout-tick
Taking a dropped goal-tick
Tossing the coin-tick,
Having a conversation with your coach’s mother-tick
Having a tidy uniform-tick
Putting in your mouth guard-tick
Back chatting the ref-tick.
Putting on your mascara (Welington only)-tick
This would make life so much simpler for selectors. They wouldn’t have to worry about watching players play, examining track records, how they react under pressure etc. It would be simple. You would pick the All Blacks on the basis of who had the biggest number of the appropriate “Unit Standards”. We would know that we had the best team available because he would have a “record of learning” to “prove” it.
Make sense? No, neither does NCEA. The sooner we re-establish a comprehensive and rigorous exam system, the sooner we will be rid of this endless tinkering and destructive nonsense. Or even better and more libertarian. Let every school choose their own exam systems and let competiton produce excellence.