How schools and teachers can help parents understand NCEA

The Towards University study, published by Starpath in June 2009, has highlighted a need for more informed adult guidance when students, particularly those from under-represented groups, choose NCEA subjects.

Many of the parents Starpath spoke to said they wanted to be involved with advising their children through NCEA. However, most of them were not confident in their ability to help their child make informed decisions. Few parents understood NCEA and the way it worked in practice, and in the implications any decisions around subject choice had for their child’s future.

Importantly, parents told us they do take time to try and understand NCEA but they need more help from schools and teachers. Parents reported that they appreciated personal, informal discussions with teachers that allowed them the opportunity to ask specific questions relevant to their child’s situation. Parents require assistance in ‘deciphering’ the NCEA terminology. Specifically, parents were unclear about the following areas:

  • Understanding their children’s NCEA results (including common abbreviations, how many credits were needed to ‘complete’ a subject and the significance of external versus internal assessment);
  • Understanding the difference between alternate versions of subjects and the significance of their children being allocated to one of these;
  • The difference between unit and achievement standards, their link to different versions of subjects and their relevance to advanced study;
  • The requirements for the University Entrance qualification (UE) and what subjects and credits are needed to enrol in a university;
  • The difference between UE and more specific programme entrance requirements (e.g. Engineering, Arts, Law, etc) set down by individual universities.

While schools do hold information evenings and other events for parents on NCEA, it was evident from the study that many parents did not find this sufficient to increase their understanding to a level of being confident in their ability to give good advice. The findings suggest schools need to reconsider how they currently educate their parents on NCEA. For example, you may wish to ask:

  • What opportunities are given to your parents for personal, informal discussion with the school on NCEA?
  • Can we do better educating parents on NCEA terminology?
  • How does your school educate parents on subject names and content (subject versions) and their relevance to different academic pathways?
  • Can we make our processes more transparent, such as how students can move between and progress along academic pathways?
  • When do we provide academic guidance and counselling to students? How often is it reviewed? Do we make it easy for parents to be involved?