False picture of New Zealand;Letter

16th January 1998 at 00:00
Your front-page article ("Resist route to 'Lego learning'", TES, December 26) makes much of Professor Alan Smithers's comments about the New Zealand national qualifications framework. It is important that UK readers are not misled by his inaccurate view.

The Education Forum, the pressure group which commissioned Professor Smithers's report, is a far Right grouping of mainly business interests whose chief concern appears to be retaining a status quo which grants academic success to a small number of representatives of the traditional establishment. And the framework has not yet been fully implemented.

Professor Smithers is reported as saying that "fewer people were gaining qualifications" through the framework than in the past. This is simply not true. Far more Year 11 and 12 students are gaining credit for completed units than have ever been permitted to achieve recognition through the existing assessment regime, Although some universities do not yet support the framework, polytechnics, further education colleges, many employer groups and most secondary schools are very enthusiastic about its potential.

Fundamental to the framework is the (apparently heretical) notion that credit should be granted to students who can demonstrate that they have achieved a predetermined standard. The forum is opposed to this form of criterion-referenced assessment and wishes to retain a norm-referenced regime.

In 1997 the secondary teachers' union (PPTA) commissioned a wide-ranging and detailed independent analysis of the framework. The report is strongly supportive of the concepts underpinning the framework, but is critical of the government's mismanagement of its implementation. Teacher workload and the future of current qualifications are two issues that still require further debate before full implementation.

DR STUART MARTIN

Deputy principal Wellington high school

New Zealand

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