As students returned to school in the Auckland region this week, those in years 11 to 13 who are participating in NCEA, voiced their concern at how the year is playing out.
We’ve all dealt with what 2020 has thrown at us in different ways. Kids and teenagers are no different.
Some students have sailed through. When learning moved home they knew what to do, got on with it, were well-supported and stayed focused - that was not my kids. Others lacked motivation, struggled to keep momentum and started to feel they were falling behind. Some just thought of it as an opportunity for a holiday.
As unfair as a global pandemic is, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s here, and the life of a student goes on.
That’s a life lesson. Life isn’t fair, stuff happens, and we need to build resilience. How many times have we heard experts talk about our young adults lacking resilience. Well, here’s a perfect resilience-building opportunity.
Covid has also given school leavers a heads up about what their lives will be like next year. Being responsible for your own work is something all schools try and instil in their students. With some Universities talking about moving more classes online, distance learning will become more of the norm.
But first they’ve got to get through this year. If a student has worked hard throughout the year they’re probably set, but some will need to do well in the exams to get what they need.
Sitting exams, getting accepted into your preferred tertiary course is stressful at the best of times.
An online survey of 5,761 secondary school students in 2017 discovered two-thirds of New Zealand secondary students identify stress and anxiety about assessments as a challenge to learning.
During the first lockdown, the government make NCEA easier, and changed exams schedules. In light of this last lockdown and the possibility we could continue to move up and down levels during exam time, more needs to be done to reassure students so they can get back to focusing on studying.
The concern for those who haven’t locked in their grades yet with good course work is that if they’re unable to attend an exam because of a lock down, they would instead get a derived grade based on the work they had completed earlier in the year. This is, according to teenagers I know, is “freaking” students out.
The government needs to move faster. There needs to be further NCEA concessions for Auckland students, especially considering how many teenagers have not returned to school in South Auckland. We need to be identifying those struggling or disadvantaged and meet their needs, and re-consider how exams could be run if part of New Zealand returned to Alert Level 3.
The government needs to listen to the President of the Auckland Secondary Principals' Association, Steve Hargreaves, who says the association is planning for the possibility that some or all exams could be cancelled. He would like the government to alter the alert level rules so exams could proceed safely even if there was a Level 3 lockdown.
Let’s get this done, and give the kids a break.