Justice for NCEA students
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On the morning of the 14th November 2016, a tragic earthquake struck New Zealand, wreaking havoc between Canterbury and Wellington (and beyond). Although many aspects of society were affected, students sitting NCEA exams were overlooked by NZQA who did not make a clear statement regarding the exams until the last minute, forcing students to endure additional stress and anxiety as we tried to wrap our heads around what would occur.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck at 12:02am (NZST) however conflicting (and unconfirmed) reports about whether exams would go ahead were released by the media (not on the official NZQA website) only after 7:30am on the morning of the exam. Even in this case, individual secondary schools were not given enough notice by NZQA, only making a final decision regarding exams at approximately 8am. NZQA did not release an official statement on their website regarding the certainty of exams until later that morning. Even if exams were to go ahead, students would not have enough time to get ready and travel to their school/exam centre.
NZQA's late action disadvantaged students as we were unsure whether exams would go ahead, consequently filling us with additional (and unneeded) stress and anxiety. Approximately 50,000 students across the country were affected, particularly:
- Level 1 Science
- Level 1 Agricultural and Horticultural Science
- Level 2 Classical Studies
- Level 2 Agricultural and Horticultural Science
- Level 3 Agricultural and Horticultural Science
- Level 3 Making Music
- NZ Scholarship History
- NZ Scholarship Chemistry
Some schools are not allowing students to apply for derived grades despite the student themselves being affected by the earthquake and evacuations that stemmed from the tsunami warnings. Some students were unable to travel to their exam centres and/or prepare thoroughly on the morning of the exam due to NZQA's lack of communication with both students and educators.
Some students sitting the NZ Scholarship History exam were also disadvantaged with Takapuna Grammar School students starting the exam prior to being made aware of the postponement of NZ Scholarship exams.
It is highly evident that NZQA's handling of this incident has disadvantaged students, forcing extra anxiety and stress upon us. A litany of both unconfirmed and conflicting reports on the morning of the 14th November 2016 regarding the status of NCEA examinations caused confusion among students, negatively affecting their ability to succeed.
As a result, this petition has been created to request justice for NCEA students from NZQA. We would like the following criteria to be met for students who had scheduled NCEA (and NZ Scholarship) examinations on this day:
- Students who managed to sit their examination should still be eligible for a derived grade (without the need for a medical certificate or any equivalent form of proof) due to the stress and anxiety of the natural disaster in addition to NZQA's handling of the incident.
- Students who did not sit their examinations and who are eligible for derived grades should have the chance to sit the same assessment standard with a different set of questions as we were unable to access our examination centre due to the natural disaster as well as unable to access the examination centre prior to the start time of the exams due to NZQA's handling of the incident.
- NZQA should remove the external requirements to gain a course endorsement (as they did in the 2010 external examinations for students affected by the Canterbury Earthquakes).
- The aforementioned should apply for all students who had exams scheduled on Monday 14th November at an examination centre in: Wellington Region, Marlborough Region, Manawatu-Wanganui Region, Nelson Region, Canterbury Region. *This could be altered to affect more regions affected by the earthquake and tsunami warnings. Any candidate from a region that is omitted above should be dealt on a case-by-case basis (e.g. as many students from regions such as the Gisborne Region and the Otago Region had to evacuate due to tsunami warnings). All students who reside in a tsunami evacuation zone on the eastern coast of New Zealand should also be eligible for the aforementioned solutions.
- NZ Scholarship students who had to complete the entire scholarship exam and were allotted the entire 3 hours to complete the examination should be able to be marked from the non-postponed exam however also have the option to sit the exam on the postponed date.
- NZQA should issue a formal apology to all students affected by their handling of the incident.
- From no later than 2017 onwards, NZQA should implement a minimum of two 'emergency exam days' at the end of the annual external exam period in order to prevent the widespread injustice that students endured this year. Students should have a choice of sitting the exam on the 'emergency exam date' or accepting a derived grade.
- NZQA should conduct a review on the procedures that they undertook following the 7.8 earthquake and have any findings from this review made available to the public. This review should seek input from those employed by NZQA as well as students, teachers, parents, and the general public. NZQA should use findings from this review to outline any issues from their mishandling of this year's exams and draft a policy stating their procedures in the case that a disaster occurs again. The draft policy should be made available to the public by NZQA to seek feedback on it prior to drafting a final policy that NZQA will also make available to the public to view; this is to enable students, schools, and parents to have more clarity in the event that another disaster were to interfere with exams.
- Schools that wish to give students the opportunity to resit their mock exams in order to improve their derived grade should have the full support of NZQA and not be restricted from doing so.
As students, we work incredibly hard throughout the year to study for these external examinations with many students only being taught useful and relevant content and technique after practice exams (which are used to determine derived grades), therefore all affected students should be granted the opportunities outlined above due to the earthquake and tsunami threat to New Zealand on the 14th November 2016. NZQA's mishandling of the incident caused anxiety and confusion among students who were already stressed from the natural disaster, let alone the exam content itself.
We wish that NZQA has the audacity to understand the distress of its candidates as a result of their handling regarding the harrowing earthquake and tsunami that struck New Zealand on the 14th November 2016.
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