[lg policy] New Zealand: NZQA defends scholarship policy
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Sat Dec 10 15:26:38 UTC 2011
NZQA defends scholarship policy
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2011
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Kiwi kids are up against native speakers in the competitive battle for
top scholarships in foreign languages. Teachers say an arbitrary line
has to be drawn in the grey area between native and New Zealand-taught
pupils to break the imbalance, which is causing passionate pupils to
But the Qualifications Authority says the system is fair and that to
revert to its pre-2008 system – in which native speakers could not get
top scholarships in their own languages – would breach the Human
Rights Act. "There is no valid, uniform or internationally agreed
definition of what a first-language speaker is," chief executive Karen
Association of Language Teachers president David Hall said the
organisation had called for a review of the 2008 change "but it went
The large Chinese influx to New Zealand meant the problem was
especially acute in Mandarin, he said, and Kiwis speaking it as a
second language were being put off studying it.
"The student perception is quite strong now – it isn't worth bothering."
Languages were the only area where the uneven balance existed, he said.
Wellington High School's incoming language head, Sharon Henry, is
calling for NZQA to revert to the pre-2008 system.
Scholarships – which give money towards tertiary study – graded pupils
against others sitting the exam, compared with regular exams, in which
pupils were marked against a pre-set grade, she said.
"Unless you have lived in a country for a reasonable period of time or
are a native speaker, you are unlikely to get scholarship."
Outgoing Wellington High principal Prue Kelly said the school
encouraged native speakers to study their own languages. "We wouldn't
complain about it. We are a school that invites the world here."
Wellington College headmaster Roger Moses said the discussion was
muddied by grey areas – such as a New Zealander born to Chinese
parents who spoke Mandarin at home.
He had "huge sympathy" for top pupils who missed out on scholarships
because they were up against native speakers.
Wellington Girls' College pupil Ran Wang won the top Chinese
scholarship in 2009, and Ingrid Saker got the top French scholarship
Wellington Girls' principal Julia Davidson said Ran grew up with
Chinese-speaking parents, and Ingrid had spent about 10 years in
She suggested there could be two exams – one for those with experience
and one for those who had learnt only through schools.
Victoria University chancellor Ian McKinnon said no matter how well a
pupil did in a single scholarship exam, they had to have achieved in
three NCEA subjects to gain university entrance.
"Once at university they are still required to do more than one
subject to get a degree."
French is a cruise for Ingrid
Primary school for New Zealand-born Ingrid Saker was a decade in France.
It is probably not surprising the Wellington Girls' College pupil won
New Zealand's top French scholarship prize last year – worth about
$1500 towards her tertiary study.
"At times I did feel a bit bad for other people who did work hard and
I was just cruising in," she said.
She barely had to attend class to get the top grade.
She said she was confused that she was able to sit her French
scholarship exam alongside New Zealand-raised pupils.
Rather than banning native speakers from scholarship, she believes a
second exam should be introduced.
After a year of studying drama this year, she intends to go to
university next year and will pick up French papers – possibly
starting at level 3.
Wellington Girls' French teacher Janet McCallister bore no ill will to
Ingrid, who was a "thoroughly deserving" pupil.
But she said another pupil in the same year missed out on the French
scholarship prize when she would have normally been a strong
"I don't know what the answer is," Ms McCallister said.
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