QA News

QA News Issue 95
- 31 Mar 2017

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
NCEA results
New Zealand Scholarship results
Joint recognition of Republic of Korea and New Zealand qualifications
NZQA’s inaugural STEM Taupulega
Top Art exhibition launched
Moderation in the digital age
NZQA as code administrator for international students
Visit from the Fiji Higher Education Commission
NCEA go-to page for parents supporting teens through results 
Study Abroad website updated to include more New Zealand providers
Te Hono o Te Kahurangi business unit structural changes
Changes to application process for NCEA students applying to Universities in Thailand 


Chief Executive's News

Karen Poutasi 1

In January results were released for the almost 170,000 NCEA students. Fortunately, the disruption to examinations caused by the Kaikoura earthquake on November 14 and extremely bad weather in some parts of the country was not evident in the either the NCEA or New Zealand Scholarship results. You can read more about the 2016 results in QA News.

Following on in February, the New Zealand Scholarship results were released and 2,355 students were awarded one or more scholarships. The release of these results are the culmination of a year of work for the students, and months of work for NZQA as an organisation.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate students’ success at the launch of the Top Art exhibition, which was held at Massey University. The launch was an opportunity for students to celebrate their achievement with whanau and friends. It was great to see the high level of work on display, which is only a small sample of the talented art works produced annually by students. You can read more about the exhibition in this edition of QA News.

Since our last issue, we’ve forged several new agreements with partners across the world. From Korea to Fiji, the different agreements reflect the strength of NCEA as an internationally reputable qualification, and the strength of New Zealand’s education system as a whole. There is more about the different agreements and what opportunities they’re creating in this edition of QA News.

A new advisory group, STEM Taupulega, was recently established to provide advice and guidance to NZQA as we work towards one of our strategic goals, to partner with education agencies to lift Pasifika student achievement in one or more standards in NCEA Level 3 by 2020. The inaugural meeting proved the group is an insightful partner to be working with.

In March we released the findings of the independent review into the error in a Level 3 Statistics examination paper and discrepancies in four other papers last year. The panel’s findings gave us a clear and objective view of the causes of the error. We are moving ahead to implement the panel’s recommendations to ensure they are fully embedded in our quality assurance processes ahead of the next examination round. You can read the panel’s report on our website.

This year we are looking forward to taking further steps in our Future State programme. So far this year, the digital assessment programme has taken significant steps forward, progressively rolling out the new and improved digital moderation and assessment application. Those involved are working hard to ensure that the transition to the new application is smooth. Read more about digital moderation in this edition of QA News.

The move towards digital programmes is part of our goal to have, where appropriate, NCEA examinations online by 2020.

We live in a global, digital and connected world and NZQA is endeavouring to ensure that our work is ‘fit for purpose’ in this environment. 

Ngā mihi



NCEA results release 

Late last year, almost 170,000 students sat NCEA external examinations. The provisional NCEA data for 2016 shows that more students than ever before are achieving NCEA Level 2, the recognised minimum qualification for success.

NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship achievement statistics for 2016 will be finalised at the end of March 2017 and published on our website.

As reviews and reconsiderations are assessed and late results are recorded, NZQA expects that the percentage of achievement will further increase.

Overall, provisional data shows that NCEA Level 1 achievement is 0.2 percentage points lower than the final 2015 figure. NCEA Level 2 has risen by one percentage point since 2015 to 77.4 per cent, and achievement in NCEA Level 3 has increased 0.7 percentage points to 63.4 per cent.

Provisional data shows University Entrance is 0.7 percentage points lower than for 2015. Both University Entrance and NCEA Level 1 achievement are expected to increase slightly before the results are finalised.

For decile 1-3 schools, achievement of NCEA Level 3 has had a steeper rise; up 2.5 percentage points to 53.9 per cent. There has also been an increase in Pasifika student achievement for Level 3, rising from 57.5 percent in 2015 to 58.9 percent.

“The highlight of provisional results was the increase in Māori student achievement in NCEA Level 2, which has lifted by 2.9 percentage points,” says NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi.

In the wake of the November 14 earthquake, the emergency grade system ensured those unable to attend examinations were not disadvantaged. “Achievement data for students at earthquake-impacted schools shows that NCEA qualification and University Entrance in those areas is in line with national trends and past patterns of achievement,” says Dr Poutasi.

Schools in the affected areas managed to minimise the effect of the disruptions caused by the earthquakes and aftershocks.

“While the earthquakes were certainly very stressful for students, schools, and parents, the emergency grade process minimised the impact on students, ensuring all students were treated fairly, given the extraordinary circumstances.” says Dr Poutasi.

A pilot of digital examinations was carried out during the 2016 examination period. These were available on a voluntary basis in three subjects; English, Classical Studies, and Media Studies. These digital examinations were held at the same dates and times as the paper-based examinations, with the paper examination available as a back-up.


New Zealand Scholarship results 

Almost 7,500 students participated in New Zealand Scholarship examinations in 2016, with 2,355 students being awarded one or more scholarships.

Students sitting New Zealand Scholarship are assessed on their ability to demonstrate high-level critical thinking, abstraction and generalisation. Successful students are those who can also integrate, synthesise and apply knowledge, skills, understanding and ideas to complex situations.

NZQA Deputy Chief Executive Kristine Kilkelly says New Zealand Scholarship is regarded as the most prestigious secondary school award in the country. There are 35 New Zealand Scholarship subjects. Those who receive a New Zealand Scholarship award are the top students in the country.

“New Zealand Scholarship is designed to extend the very best students and to financially reward those who are going on to full-time tertiary study in New Zealand.”

Top scholars receive both monetary awards and recognition, with their names and details of their awards published on the NZQA website. Premier and Top Subject scholars are invited to the Top Scholar Awards ceremony held each year in May.

“The Top Scholar ceremony recognises the outstanding results of our New Zealand Scholarship students, along with the presentation of the Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence to the highest achieving New Zealand Scholarship student,” says NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi.

The recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award has the most outstanding examination results and the highest overall academic excellence of all the Premier Award winners, and is announced during the Top Scholar ceremony in May. 


Joint recognition of Republic of Korea and New Zealand qualifications

An historic statement was signed on 23 February by Education officials from the Republic of Korea and New Zealand that will pave the way for students to further their studies in either country.

“The signing of the statement means we can now undertake further bilateral work that has the potential to open up a world of study opportunities for young people here and in the Republic of Korea,” says Secretary for Education, Iona Holsted.

“The joint statement is a step towards our students being able to have previous qualifications more easily recognised abroad and will provide access to further study that has traditionally been difficult to access. While there is still more to do, I’m looking forward to seeing the shared benefits for both countries,” says Ms Holsted.

The Joint Recognition Statement between the two countries, signed in Wellington, follows the completion of a joint research report: Comparison of Senior Secondary School Qualifications. The report, prepared by researchers from the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation along with subject matter experts and staff from the NZQA and the New Zealand Ministry of Education, will support higher education institutions in both countries to make decisions about the comparability of Korean High School Certificate and the New Zealand National Certificate of Educational Achievement Level 3.

The report indicates that senior secondary school curricula in the two countries are broadly comparable. This conclusion was based on the number of common denominators for Mathematics and Science subjects using the concept of internationally recognised ‘best-fit’.

NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi said the Recognition Statement and research report are the tangible results of collaborative work under the Education Cooperation Arrangement signed by the two countries in 2009. It is hoped that more Korean students will come to New Zealand to study, and vice versa.

“The statement is the first of its kind signed by Korea and is a sign of confidence in the quality of education in both countries,” said Dr Poutasi. Formal acknowledgement of cooperation arrangements and recognition statements is increasingly common practice in a globally connected world. NZQA aims to have qualification recognition arrangements with at least 50 countries by 2020.

”The joint research report has helped to promote a shared understanding of the Republic of Korea and New Zealand’s education systems and curricula. We look forward to further dialogue between our two countries.”

The joint research report and signed Statement are available at


NZQA’s inaugural STEM Taupulega

On 31 January NZQA held a whakatau for members of our newly established STEM Taupulega Advisory Group prior to their inaugural meeting. The STEM Taupulega (Taupulega) will provide advice and support NZQA to achieve our 2020 goal to lift Pasifika student achievement in one or more standards in NCEA Level 3. 

The term Taupulega is used in many Polynesian countries and means ‘council of advisors’. STEM is the acronym used to refer to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Each member of the Taupulega brings their own experience and strength. The Taupulega members are:

  • Joy Eaton, Deputy Director of Starpath at the University of Auckland
  • J’aime Laurenson, Auror (crime prevention software)
  • Virginia Baker, social scientist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research
  • Natalie Faitala, Chair of the PPTA Komiti Pasifika
  • Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, scientific lead on the Penicillin Research Programme at the Victoria University of Wellington
  • Roneima Teumohenga, Health Science student at the University of Otago
  • James Penfold, medical student at the University of Auckland.

With such a wealth of professional advice, the inclusion of Roneima and James would ensure that the views of students are an important feature of the advice and support from the Taupulega. Roneima received the GCSB (Government Communication Security Bureau) STEM Award at the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards in 2016 and is studying Health Sciences at the University of Otago, as a foundation to study medicine. James was the recipient of the Ako Aotearoa STEM Award at the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards in 2016 and is studying medicine at the University of Auckland, where he has also been working as a tutor for Maori and Pacific students, as well as working with colleagues on an initiative to address health and well-being of Maori and Pacific students.

The Taupulega is looking to meet more regularly during the first six months, with meetings planned for March and May, so they can more quickly contribute towards work already underway to achieving the Pasifika in STEM target. 

We look forward to the valuable contribution that the Taupulega will make in supporting our Pasfika in STEM work. 


Top Art exhibition launched

On Monday 27 February, Te Ara Hihiko was drenched in sun as guests wandered the space, viewing the NCEA Top Art exhibition.

60 folios hung along the walls of the main foyer of Massey University’s College of Creative Arts from 27 February to 10 March, when the exhibition was broken down into two tours of 30 folios; one going south, the other north.

The exhibition is an annual touring exhibition coordinated by NZQA, featuring NCEA Level 3 Visual Art portfolios by students who achieved Excellence in 2016, with several also achieving New Zealand Scholarship.

The exhibition showcases some of the best of the five fields of NCEA Level 3 Visual Arts; design, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. The selected art work is just a small selection of the exceptional artwork being produced in schools across the country.

The exhibition provides an opportunity for students to celebrate their achievement with their whanau and friends, as well as their teachers, and future lecturers.

Massey University Head of School for Whiti O Rehua School of Art, Dr Huhana Smith, warmly welcomed everyone to the launch and celebrated the work of each student whose art portfolio had been selected for the tour. She commended students on the recurring environmental perspectives reflected in their boards, a subject that Huhana focuses on in her own work. 

Huhana thanked NZQA for giving Massey University the opportunity to host the exhibition, and share in celebrating the work of these talented young people.

NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi echoed Huhana’s words. “You’ll note that several of the biographies and the artworks themselves indicate a strong social conscience and a growing awareness of the impact of humanity on the world around us.”

Students were thrilled to see their work displayed at Massey University. Mary-Jane Martin, a former Kerikeri High School student who has moved to Wellington to study a Bachelor of Design at Massey majoring in Photography, attended the launch of the exhibition. “I feel very proud of the work I have created and it feels good to be able to show others my ideas and thoughts,” she says.

Other students commented on how great it was to see everyone else’s work. Students liked to see the range of styles and influences and read about how each idea was executed.

For more information and an exhibition schedule see: 



Moderation in the digital age

In consultation with education organisations and in recognition of changing assessor needs, NZQA has been carrying out the staged release of a digital moderation service called the external moderation application.

This service has been designed to improve the external moderation process by which NZQA quality assures the internally assessed work taking place in schools and tertiary education organisations (TEOs) throughout the country.

NZQA moderates approximately 100,000 samples of learner evidence each year, which it receives from schools at the beginning of each month staged from March to December. TEOs similarly submit materials between June and March.

The physical moderation process saw valuable time lost in transit, as education organisations would send learner evidence through to NZQA, it would be reviewed and then returned. The process could take a number of weeks.  

The external moderation application makes this process quicker and easier by allowing education organisations to submit moderation materials online.

A future release will also improve the appeals and clarifications processes, which has previously been a labour intensive process. The clarification process will now be a direct query to the moderator - providing the opportunity for more timely feedback and allowing teachers to adjust their assessment practices if necessary.

NZQA Deputy Chief Executive Digital Assessment Transformation, Andrea Gray, says the external moderation application will give schools and TEOs greater control of the moderation workload.

‘Digital submission means more education organisations can submit their learner evidence when it is ready, rather than waiting until their planned submission date’

Learners are increasingly producing and submitting their work digitally. Education organisations already storing this work online can use this facility immediately. Other schools will transition to providing online material gradually. Importantly, the option to provide physical material is still available.

‘While we’re excited about the opportunities that digital moderation will have, there are still some challenges ahead: we’re considering how to account for work that doesn't translate well to digital formats. But, as is good practice in a project like this, we have options in place to carefully manage the moderation processes if we strike any issues’ says Ms Gray.

Online training is available as new functionality is released, and education organisations are being supported by NZQA’s relationship managers.

One of NZQA’s Future State goals is to see 100% of moderation materials being submitted digitally by 2020.

This work supports other projects within NZQA’s Future State programme of work, to modernise and digitise a number of the functions that NZQA administers.


NZQA as code administrator for international students

The Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 (the Code) which came into effect in July last year, outlines the care and support international students can expect while they study in New Zealand. Being a signatory to the Code is a legal requirement for any education provider wishing to enrol international students in New Zealand.

Under the new Code, complaints about the treatment of international students can be made to NZQA or the iStudent Complaints scheme, managed by FairWay Resolution Ltd. NZQA has increased powers as Code Administrator to investigate complaints about alleged Code breaches by providers and to invoke statutory actions in response to proven breaches. Contractual and financial disputes are handled by iStudent Complaints, whereas all other complaints about alleged Code breaches are managed by NZQA.

We are responsible for ensuring all Code administration activities are co-ordinated across NZQA and with other agencies to ensure a seamless approach. This includes working closely with the Education Review Office, Universities New Zealand and the iStudent Complaints scheme managed by FairWay, to monitor Code compliance across the international education sector. 

NZQA also provides advice, guidance, and professional leadership to Code signatories, supporting them to meet their Code obligations, so that students have a positive experience while studying in New Zealand.

Key achievements to date include the development of guidelines for schools and tertiary organisations, an online open-source toolkit of resources for signatories, translation of the Code into a range of languages, and refinement of the self-review process.

Together with the sector, NZQA will identify development needs and create resources to support signatories to achieve good outcomes for international student wellbeing.


Visit from Fiji Higher Education Commission

A delegation from the Fijian Higher Education Commission (FHEC) visited last month following a request for NZQA to review the Fiji Qualifications Framework.

This visit enabled our teams to scope with FHEC the areas they’ve asked for assistance with, and allowed our experts in both QAD and Assessments Division to better understand the substance of the work.

In recent weeks, an agreement establishing a long-term partnership between the two agencies was signed, as well as the first commercial contract.

This agreement is not only focused on their national qualifications framework, along with the quality assurance that would underpin it, but includes capability building for FHEC itself as well as new IT systems.

Staff from NZQA’s Information Systems and Organisational Performance units will travel to Fiji in late March to undertake the first range of activities supporting FHEC to strengthen their foundation structures and systems. 


NCEA go-to page for parents supporting teens through results

In mid-January students were eager to check their NCEA results online. As the dust settles, now’s the time for parents, whānau and young people to come together to talk about where to next with study and job options. 

“It can be an emotional and confronting time for teens, particularly school leavers,” says Pat Cody, Principal Advisor – Career Knowledge Hub, Careers New Zealand.  “For many students, results will confirm study or career pathways, but some will receive results that may be disappointing or unexpected – requiring some further thinking about their future careers.” 

To help with these conversations, Careers New Zealand launched a dedicated NCEA page on its website and were honoured to have former All Black legend and devoted dad Michael Jones share his tips on ways parents can to talk to teens about NCEA results.

There’s often more than one path to a desired career. The page offers students, school-leavers, family, whānau and influencers a range of articles and an eBook with the advice they need on planning their next steps.  Visit and share!

 CareersNZ NCEA hub

Study Abroad website updated to include more New Zealand providers

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is pleased to announce that the Chinese Ministry of Education has recently agreed to add four New Zealand education providers to its Jiaoyu Shewai Jianguan Xinxiwang (JSJ) Study Abroad website.

NZQA has worked closely with the Chinese Embassy since 2003 when New Zealand education providers were first added to the JSJ Study Abroad website. Currently all New Zealand’s eight universities, 15 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, and 19 Private Training Establishments are listed on the website.

The JSJ website lists education providers outside of China that have been recognised by the Chinese government as high quality education providers. This is important to New Zealand’s education institutions as it makes them visible to Chinese students choosing high quality education providers in New Zealand. More than 25,000 international students from China studied in New Zealand last year.

The four education providers recently added to the JSJ Study Abroad website are:

  • National Technology Institute Limited
  • Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand Incorporated
  • ICL Graduate Business School
  • Animation College.

All the New Zealand education providers listed on the website meet criteria that have been agreed between the Chinese Ministry of Education and NZQA. Only those education providers that meet all the following criteria, will be considered by the Chinese Ministry of Education for listing on the JSJ website:

  • be signatories to the Education Code of Practice
  • be a Category 1 or 2 provider, with evidence of maintaining this level over time
  • offer degrees (at Level 7 or above of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework)
  • not be specialist English language schools
  • not be distance learning schools
  • not deliver religious programmes.

Throughout negotiations NZQA has advocated for a criteria-based approach for the listing of further New Zealand PTEs. The rationale behind this approach is to allow for a regular review process, ensuring that PTEs on the list continue to meet criteria expected by the Chinese Ministry of Education, and allowing additional PTEs to be added to the list as they meet the criteria.

The announcement of the addition of four further high-quality PTEs is a positive step, and NZQA will continue to negotiate with the Chinese Ministry of Education on the use of the criteria as the basis for regular review and updates to the JSJ Study Aboard website.


Te Hono o Te Kahurangi business unit structural changes

The Quality Assurance Division (QAD) of NZQA has assigned the processes for front end applications and external evaluation review to the dedicated team of Te Hono o Te Kahurangi. Quality Assurance Māori, previously called Strategic Relationship Māori, aims to build on the existing capability, and to raise sector interest in the Te Hono o Te Kahurangi evaluative quality assurance approach.

These key changes will see further emphasis on the Mātauranga Māori evaluative approach to quality assurance, alignment between the structure of the team and quality assurance processes, consistent with the Te Hono o Te Kahurangi whare ako framework. It will also see further advancement of Te Hono o Te Kahurangi in QAD, along with greater recognition of Māori learner achievement and advancing Mātauranga Māori.

Te Hono o Te Kahurangi is responsible for case management of the following:

  • Te Hono o Te Kahurangi applications from Level 1 – 10
  • Legislated Wānanga applications from Level 1 – 10
  • Māori Private Training Establishments
  • Te Hono o Te Kahurangi External Evaluation Review. 

Te Hono o Te Kahurangi guidelines and rules

The updated guidelines and rules for Te Hono o Te Kahurangi are now confirmed and can be found here:



Te Hono o Te Kahurangi wins Te Reo Māori Central and Champion Award

The Te Hono o Te Kahurangi Evaluative Quality Assurance Framework won the Te Reo Māori Central Government Champion Award at the Māori Language Commission’s annual Ngā Tohu Reo Māori National Māori Language Awards held in New Plymouth on 11 November 2016.  There were finalists in 13 contestable categories.

Ngā Tohu Reo Māori recognises and celebrates people and groups making a difference for Te Reo Māori so the landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand will resonate with our indigenous language. These awards provide an opportunity to honour amazing people and groups doing extraordinary things to create positive attitudes about the language, increase the number of speakers of the language and, overall, elevate the mana or status of Te Reo Māori in Aotearoa.

NZQA was a finalist in three categories. Other finalists in the Te Reo Māori Central Government Champion category were the Ministry of Justice and Callaghan Innovation. Staff from NZQA were on hand to accept the award.


Changes to application process for NCEA students applying to Universities in Thailand

Education officials in Thailand have proposed changes which will allow students with NCEA to apply directly to Thai universities in 2017. Currently NZQA has an arrangement with the Thai government that NCEA is accepted as being the equivalent to the Thai school leaving qualification, Matthayom 6.

The changes mean that students would no longer be required to obtain a Matthayom 6 (M6) equivalency certificate.

Deputy Chief Executive, Russell Wood, says it’s important international students from Thailand are aware of the proposed changes for admission to university in their home country.

“This process would make it easier for Thai students to obtain direct entry to Thai universities.NZQA would work very closely with education officials, university admission staff and education agents to ensure a smooth transition for students.”

Russell says it is important to remind students that Thai universities will make their own admission decisions supported by the current equivalency arrangement.

These changes are expected to be finalised early in 2017.

For further information, please email


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