QA News

QA News Issue 85
- 26 Sep 2014

ISSN 1170-3318 (Online)

QA News provides information about NZQA activities. It is produced by NZQA four times per year.

In this edition:

Chief Executive’s News
Roadshow NCEA Workshops for Pasifika parents
Future State - Assessment is evolving
Qualification Pathways in a Māori context
Immigration ONLINE-Student goes live
NZQA researches digital assessment abroad
NZQA-Malaysian Qualifications Agency 2nd Technical Exchange
Innovations in Tertiary Education Delivery Summit
Independent Review - implementation of the 2007 NCEA enhancements
NZQA Presents at Haemata Workshops
Examination season nearly here
Changes to titles of qualifications
NZQA’s Annual Report 2013/2014

 Chief Executive's News

Exam season is fast approaching, and this year more than 140,000 senior secondary school students are involved in external assessment for NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship.

Here at NZQA this is a particularly busy time. In this edition of QA News we outline the examination process - with so many students and papers involved it is no small undertaking and it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and support from schools and teachers.

This year, there are 120 examination sessions for NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship, running from Friday 7 November through to Tuesday, 2 December.

Marking of examinations will be completed by the end of the year and results are scheduled to be delivered to students in mid-January.

The one constant in education is change. As you will hopefully be aware, NZQA has developed a ‘Future State’ programme of work in order to respond to the changing needs of learners in an increasingly borderless, digital world and later in this edition of QA News, you can read more about the future of assessment here in New Zealand and what is happening overseas.

A short video outlining the way in which assessment is evolving is now available on our newly commissioned YouTube Channel.

The importance of whānau support to success in NCEA can’t be understated.  For the past few years NZQA has run workshops to help increase parents understanding of how NCEA works and how to support their young people. Presently we are piloting a series of roadshow workshops specifically aimed at Pasifika parents in more rural communities.

There is also a lot of information about how NCEA works and how to best support students available on our website.

A highlight of this month has also been the final showing of NZQA’s annual Top Art Exhibition. I hope you enjoy some of the vibrant images below.

Nga mihi,


 Roadshow NCEA Workshops for Pasifika parents

Over the past two years NZQA has delivered more than 100 Understanding NCEA workshops to 3760 parents.

This year, a roadshow workshop is being piloted as a way to reach more Pacific families who live outside of the main centres.

The workshops are designed to help parents understand how NCEA works and how best to support their young people.

Topics covered include how NCEA works at secondary school, how to engage with your child’s school, the importance of subject choice and the difference between internal and external assessment.

NZQA’s Chief Advisor Pasifika, Aaron Nonoa, says a focus for this year’s workshops is to find different ways to reach more Pacific people.

“What we’re going to do is to link in with schools and churches and also advertise on Pacific radio.

“We want as many pacific parents as possible to benefit from the information, because particularly in Pacific cultures, the family unit is critical to the success of the individual.”

The evaluation forms from the workshops have been very positive in terms of the workshop’s usefulness, with some schools asking for a workshop for the third year in a row. 

There are varied reasons why the workshops are important.

“Sometimes there are language barriers or a lack of understanding about the importance of choosing standards and credits that will give a student the best options after finishing school.

“Sometimes the advice we give is a simple as reminding parents that support needs to be on-going, not just around exam time as students are assessed throughout the school year.”

Further roadshow presentations will be held over the next 12 months, along with the usual programme of on-demand workshops.

 Future State - Assessment is evolving

A strong focus of NZQA’s Future State Programme is the move towards digital assessment.

Future State is NZQA’s vision for the next seven to ten years.

The use of technology for teaching and learning programmes in New Zealand schools is on the increase and NZQA has developed a digital assessment programme as a response.

As an organisation, we believe technology enables for positive change through assessment reflecting what is happening in teaching and learning and enabling student needs to drive their learning.

Digital assessment means assessment can occur anywhere, and at any time and is in a medium students are both familiar with and prefer to work in.

NZQA is trialling a number of new processes and different technology.

This year NZQA is piloting a computer based assessment: e-MCAT. More information about the trial can be found on our innovation pages:

The use of text to speech software is also being piloted, with a small group of students who require Special Assessment Conditions to use this year’s practice examinations.

A YouTube video titled ‘Assessment is evolving” has recently been produced and can be viewed on our YouTube Channel.

Read more about the way in which assessment is changing internationally later in this edition of QA News.

 Qualification Pathways in a Māori context

NZQA is collaborating with whānau, hapū, and iwi to develop culturally relevant New Zealand qualifications across a range of Mātauranga Māori subject areas, as part of the Mandatory Review of Qualifications.

Qualifications are being developed at NZQF Levels 1-6, for Māori Governance; Tourism Māori; Māori Business and Management; Māori Environment and Whenua; Manaaki Marae – Marae Hospitality; Ngā Toi Māori; Health & Disabilities, Social Services and Whānau Ora; Tikanga Māori; and Te Reo Māori. 

NZQA’s Māori Qualifications Services team is also assisting with the development of mātauranga Māori Teacher Education and Early Childhood Education qualifications.  Key stakeholders within the Teacher Education and Early Childhood Education qualification reviews recognised that there is a unique body of knowledge inherent within mātauranga Māori teaching and learning, which validates the development of separate qualifications.

The qualifications are being evaluated using the Mātauranga Māori Evaluative Quality Assurance (MM EQA) process.  An education organisation that develops a programme leading to these qualifications may be entitled to award the Mātauranga Māori Quality Assurance Mark.  The mark will show that the programme and qualification it leads to is highly likely to meet the identified needs and aspirations of ākonga, and their whānau.  The mark also indicates that an education organisation has the resources to effectively and sustainably deliver a quality mātauranga Māori programme and advance mātauranga Māori as a body of knowledge.

It is hoped that the proposed suites of qualifications will provide education and employment pathways for Māori learners, which will allow them to contribute positively to their whānau, hapū and iwi.

Following the approval of qualifications to be listed on the NZQF, the Field Māori unit standards will be revised to ensure that there is alignment to the outcomes of the new qualifications.

 Immigration ONLINE-Student goes live

International students who want to study in New Zealand can now apply for their visa, pay fees and upload documents online.

ONLINE-Student is the first major Immigration New Zealand (INZ) ONLINE service to go live.

The new service is available to full fee paying, scholarship, exchange and English language students. Students will need to login.

Student applicants will still need to provide passports, either through Visa Application Centres offshore or, if the applicant is already in New Zealand, through the INZ Palmerston North office.

Once label-less visas (e-visas) become widely available in 2015, most applicants will no longer need to send in their passports along with their applications.  

Next year, INZ’s third party partners such as immigration advisers, education agents and education providers will be able to apply for visas on behalf of their student clients.

Until then, all current application methods will remain available. Advisers and providers can help students complete the form, but for now, the student must submit it until ‘apply on behalf ‘becomes available.

Further information about INZ’s Immigration ONLINE project can be found here.

 NZQA researches digital assessment abroad

NZQA’s Digital Assessment Programme Leader Steve Bargh, and Manager of Secondary Operations and Logistics John Pihema have been researching international computer-based examinations, as NZQA embarks on its own digital assessment programme of work.

This research recently took them to the Netherlands and British Columbia.

The Netherlands was chosen as the Dutch have used computer based examinations for more than ten years. British Columbia was selected as they are using dual assessment. This means students can sit an equivalent examination using either paper or a computer.

The Dutch equivalent of NZQA is called CITO and is located in the city of Arnhem.

Dutch examinations consist of a mixture of computer adaptive testing and extended prose. All examinations have a text to speech facility built in and computer labs or common areas where technology is available.

Students can sit closely together, as the same examination can have multiple variations and the questions are delivered in different orders. This means there are very few issues with students looking at each other’s screens.

All schools are provided with a dedicated server and examinations are delivered to the server and stored there.

After the examination, the script is stored on the local server and submitted to CITO’s global server.

From an NZQA perspective the flexibility this kind of assessment offers is very positive. Instructions are kept to a minimum and sample assessments are made available online.

The importance of having a consistent interface in terms of colours, layout, menu was noted. Steve says resolution is important as are clear instructions.

The scale of British Columbia’s examinations is similar to the Netherlands with 180,000 students sitting exams each year.

In British Columbia the examination period is spread across seven months, and for some examinations students have the option of choosing either computer or paper based assessment.

Schools in British Columbia face similar challenges to New Zealand schools in terms of equipment availability, however about 75% of British Columbian schools can deliver computer-based examinations in 2014.

As is the case in the Netherlands, examinations in British Columbia have the option of built in text to speech software where this is required by a student. Students can do online practice examinations to get them familiar with what they need to do in an examination.

Internet security is managed by schools uploading a security app. This means, as soon as students log on to the examination, they are unable to access anything else on their device until they finish the examination. Papers are also auto-saved every minute, so if there is a problem on one computer the student can move quickly onto another one.

While the Dutch have 15 versions of each paper, in British Columbia, there are five versions.

Both Steve and John described this research as very useful. NZQA is continuing to investigate a range of options within the examination space and as more knowledge and information becomes available it will be used to inform NZQA’s direction with computer based examinations.

 NZQA-Malaysian Qualifications Agency 2nd Technical Exchange

NZQA staff recently visited the Malaysian Qualifications Authority (MQA) in Kuala Lumpur as part of two technical exchanges between the organisations.

This is part of an agreed programme of work between the MQA and NZQA. The 2nd Technical Exchange complemented the 1st technical exchange with MQA staff visiting in New Zealand in April 2014.

The purpose of the 2nd technical exchange was to verify MQA policies and procedures stated in the Reference Framework for the Recognition of Bachelor Degrees project. 

The technical exchange involved on-the-ground activities which allowed NZQA staff to participate in or observe quality assurance and qualifications policies and procedures. This included presentations and discussions on MQA’s institutional audit and quality assurance processes and underpinning legislation.

External agency visits included observations of a panel of assessors for programme accreditation within public/private higher education institution collaboration, and site visits to private, public and distance learning universities to observe internal quality assurance arrangements.

Dr Grant Klinkum, Deputy Chief Executive, Strategic and Corporate Services noted that the intended objectives and outcomes for the technical exchange were achieved.

“We are confident that the activities verified the MQA’s policies and procedures stated in the reference framework for the project. 

“This second exchange increased confidence in each country’s qualifications and quality assurance policies and supports the current project for the recognition of Master’s and Doctoral degrees.”  

There was agreement between both parties that this established a strong working partnership at business unit level through the sharing of technical knowledge on qualifications and quality assurance systems.

 Innovations in Tertiary Education Delivery Summit

What will education look like in ten or twenty years? How will technology change the nature of teaching and learning?

These were just some of the questions key influencers and decision makers from the education and business sectors discussed at the recent Innovations in Tertiary Education Delivery Summit.

NZQA’s Deputy Chief Executive for Strategic and Corporate, Dr Grant Klinkum, describes the summit as an important milestone in bringing the tertiary education sector and key stakeholders together.

From NZQA’s perspective, conference themes were closely related to NZQA’s Future State programme of work.

The Future State programme looks at how NZQA can best respond to the changing needs of learners in an increasingly global, borderless and digital world. In an era where students learn digitally, there may be opportunities to introduce digital assessment in NCEA exams. This year NZQA is trialling one online assessment (e-MCAT) with 20 schools.

There are also opportunities to digitise the exam administration process. Scholarship candidate papers were returned to students electronically in 2014 as a pilot. NZQA is current considering whether a digital marking tool would enable us to avoid sending hard copies of exam papers to markers across the country by courier.

Technological developments are providing both opportunities and challenges for current approaches to teaching and learning.

A significant focus of the Summit was to consider what impact Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may have on the tertiary system. MOOCs are free short courses offered online by universities such as Harvard. MOOCs generally do not yet count toward qualifications, but some include computer or peer marked assessment and participants can obtain completion certificates in some cases. Summit participants heard from a number of MOOC platform providers. Learner uptake has been significant, although only a small proportion of students complete the courses.

A view on MOOCs is that they represent an extension of distance and open learning that provides opportunities to augment (not replace) current teaching and learning. They offer an opportunity to think about what constitutes a traditional learning experience, and to think more about each of these components.

Debate at the Summit kept returning to the key theme of putting learners at the heart of teaching and learning and ensuring that technology and other types of innovation are appropriately utilised to enhance the learner experience. It was noted that education is becoming more personalised and learner-driven, with increasing interest in interdisciplinary studies.

Dr Klinkum notes that “NZQA’s role is to ensure the credibility and relevance of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework nationally and internationally while being flexible enough to take into account changes in modes of delivery and globalisation.

Quality assurance arrangements support learners by making sure no matter where they study or travel in the world a New Zealand qualification is transportable and easily recognised.

That means we need to think about what employers will value in the years to come, and what they recognise in terms of qualifications and skills, especially if these are delivered in new and different ways. How we can ensure there is parity between methods of delivery and validity and quality of assessment decisions are also important considerations. For example, if MOOCs are one day credit bearing, how can the New Zealand qualifications system accommodate or recognise such learning?

That’s why we need appropriate and rigorous processes for recognising learning to ensure resources are used effectively and the reputation of the quality assurance system is both maintained and strengthened.”

Dr Klinkum says the quality of education we can offer will be an important determinant for New Zealand’s success in the rapidly intensifying competition for international students between countries.

“It’s a central component to developing the well-qualified skilled and knowledgeable workforce New Zealand needs to succeed in the globalised economy.  Quality assurance will continue to be even more important and necessary to avoid reputational risks, and to build the necessary mutual confidence to facilitate the recognition and transfer of learning.”

Further information about NZQA’s Future State programme can be found here.

 Independent Review - implementation of the 2007 NCEA enhancements

NZQA is carrying out an independent review of its implementation of the 2007 NCEA enhancements for which it has direct responsibility.

In 2007, a number of enhancements to NCEA (for example, the Record of Achievement and publication of online exemplars of annotated student work) were initiated by the New Zealand Qualification's Authority (NZQA).

The effectiveness of these enhancements is now being reviewed by a panel of well-respected academics and educationalists. The NZQA Board expects the findings of the review will be reported back to them early in 2015.

The panel may also suggest how NZQA could refine these enhancements.

The independent panel is chaired by Papatoetoe High School Principal Peter Gall and members include:

  • Robyn Baker, Director/CEO, New Zealand Council for Educational Research
  • Professor Liz McKinley, Professor and Director, Centre for Indigenous Education, Melbourne Graduate School of Education
  • Arni Wainui, Tumuaki, Te Wharekura o Arowhenua, Invercargill
  • Professor Terry Crooks, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Otago

NZQA is inviting feedback to inform the review.

 NZQA Presents at Haemata Workshops

NZQA recently had the opportunity to present at workshops for teachers from Māori-medium kura.

The presentations were well received by participants at workshops held by Māori Language and Education Consultancy Service Haemata Ltd.

Sessions focused on assessment task design, task modification, moderation assessment planning and covered the newly aligned Māori-medium NCEA Level 1 achievement standards. The alignment of standards with Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, the Māori-medium schooling curriculum, and programme planning for teaching and learning programmes, were also addressed.

Deputy Chief Executive, Richard Thornton, says the intention was for teachers to gain confidence in being able to modify or create assessment resources that align with Te Marautanga o Aotearoa as well as the school’s teaching and learning programme.

Informal feedback indicates teachers were pleased to have networking opportunities with other subject experts and left with a broader understanding and knowledge of how to implement an NCEA Level 1 programme.

According to Mr Thornton, teachers also gained a further understanding of the relationship between schools and NZQA and an awareness of the NZQA support that is available to teachers.

 Examination Season nearly here

The examination season is fast approaching and is one of the busiest times in NZQA’s calendar.

It happens every year, largely without incident, but have you ever given much thought to the complexity and timeframe involved in making the examination season happen?

The examination season is the culmination of planning and hard work by students, teachers, NZQA staff and contractors.

End to end, the examination process takes 18 months, and involves a team of 400 subject specialists who develop the examinations and 1800 markers, marking approximately 1.4 million examination papers.

NZQA’s aim is to have no errors in examination papers. When you are talking about 1.4 million papers, consisting of multiple pages, this is no small undertaking.

There is a lot of knowledge and skill required to create what is considered a ‘good’ examination paper.

A minimum of four subject matter experts work on the papers. They are checked by at least two NZQA National Assessment Facilitators and three NZQA Editors.

Since the introduction of NCEA, students have been assessed by standard rather than by subject.

NZQA starts contracting markers in mid-March. Usually, they are school teachers with particularly good subject matter knowledge and assessment experience. NZQA has systems in place to ensure students’ work is not marked by teachers from their own school.

Marking papers is a highly pressured job.  Examinations are held right up until the first week of December and need to be marked before Christmas, so markers put in a lot of time, especially once schools close for the year.

It is sometimes suggested there is a high degree of subjectivity in the marking of certain assessments, such as painting or photography, but this is incorrect. There are very strict criteria that each portfolio is marked against, such as the ability to generate ideas, decision making processes used, and techniques. Check marking also ensures consistency between markers.

Meanwhile, NZQA’s National Assessment Facilitators are often travelling to bench-marking and marking panel meetings, checking that marking is running smoothly.

All results are submitted electronically and are processed and quality assured by NZQA’s Data Analysis team before being released online to students.

By the time students receive their results, the examination cycle for the following year is already well underway.

 Changes to titles of qualifications

Titles of some qualifications listed on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) are changing.

Over time, new and reviewed qualifications listed at levels 1-6 on the NZQF will have “New Zealand” in their titles. The use of the term “National” or a provider name in a qualification title, for level 1-6 qualifications, is being phased out as qualifications are reviewed.

The word ‘National’ will continue to be used to distinguish secondary school qualifications at levels 1-3, namely NCEA.

All qualifications – new, reviewed, and phased out of use – will still be listed on the NZQF and all are valid qualifications.

The changes leading to new qualifications titles arose from the targeted review of qualifications undertaken in 2009. The aim of the review was to ensure that New Zealand qualifications are useful and relevant to current and future learners, and their employers.

Further detailed information about the changes to titles, including fact sheets for students and sample certificates, can be found here.

 Another successful Top Art exhibition

As the exam season fast approaches, the conclusion of NZQA’s Top Art Exhibition serves as a reminder of the talent and potential that many young New Zealanders have. 

The exhibition tours New Zealand from March to August, concluding with a showcase at NZQA’s national office during September.  It consists of the top portfolios from the previous year’s NCEA Level 3 design, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture courses.

Deputy Chief Executive, Richard Thornton describes the exhibition as a highlight of the NZQA calendar.

“It’s an opportunity to celebrate excellence, and also to show both students and teachers examples of what is required to achieve an Excellence endorsement.”  

To view more of these images, visit our Top Art Facebook Page or see the 2014 online Exhibition.

 NZQA's Annual Report 2013/2014

NZQA’s latest annual report is now available online. As well as outlining what we do and why we do it, the report lists key achievements in 2013/2014 and shows how NZQA is working with other Government agencies and the private sector to better deliver results to its clients. It also describes how NZQA’s international work programme is supporting the education export industry through the promotion of quality-assured qualifications with key education partners.

This report measures NZQA’s performance against commitments made in its 2013/2014- 2015/2016 Statement of Intent.

Future commitments are outlined in NZQA’s 2014/2015 – 2017/2018 Statement of intent and include:

  • A New Zealand qualifications framework that is more relevant and better meets the needs of learners, employers, industry, iwi and providers
  • Higher-quality assessment practices in New Zealand's secondarnzqa anny schools
  • Higher-quality education in New Zealand

Click here (PDF, 802KB) to download the full report.

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