Throughout most of New Zealand's educational history, students have been required to sit written and sometimes oral examinations either as a record of achievement at the end of schooling, as a passport to further free schooling, for the information of potential employers, or as means of acquiring a place in higher education. During the last 122 years New Zealand school children have seen a variety of examinations come and go including examinations carried out during an inspector's visit to a primary school; oral and written post-primary school examinations set by the local university professor; written national examinations originally intended for entry into the civil service: national Matriculation and School Certificate examinations and, more recently University Bursary examinations. The history of these examinations and assessment procedures shows that a new qualification gains acceptance only if it has a certain rarity value. Once that qualification is attainable by most students, there are demands for a new qualification of a higher standard. Thus the sequence of school qualifications is displaced as new qualifications are introduced at a higher level than previously. The proposed introduction of Achievement Standards at levels 1, 2 and 3 of the Qualifications' Framework and the subsequent protestations by a number of secondary school principals that they will look elsewhere for a challenge for their students will, it is argued, result in a further dumbing down of existing qualifications.
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