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Letter: Accreditations, NCEA practices questioned

Tuesday 5 March 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Education, National


Letter: Accreditations, NCEA practices questioned

Dear Editor, 1. The Cook Islands Ministry of Education is not an accredited tertiary body in the Cook Islands. (Only CITTI, CEIT, USP, the Theological College and Te Vānanga Are Tapere O Takitumu are). So a question that needs to be asked is: what does it mean to earn a Certificate of Diploma from a unaccredited tertiary body/institution? Where are these qualifications recognised (outside of the Cook Islands)? If nowhere then one needs to ask many more questions.

2.  Yes, our NCEA rates can look good at 70 per cent or so but when Tereora staff make some students (who they didn’t think would pass NCEA) leave school before the exams (so as not to impact on their pass rate), this greatly impacts the stats. This practice is actually illegal in NZ but not here ... So, wonder what the real pass rate would have been had students who didn’t want to leave, but were made to and their families told by MoE (Ministry of Education) staff that the school had nothing further to offer them, had been allowed to stay on at school. Maybe they would have passed? (We didn’t the first time we sat exams at high school … but we did the following year as we were allowed to stay at school). Maybe not – but it is the school’s obligation to allow them to try and to also ask themselves why their students do not or might not pass. As professionals, educators should look to themselves first and put educational interventions in place to support students who may be struggling – not telling them they have to leave school. Aue!

The only way for NCEA results to improve is to strengthen ECE (Early Childhood Education) and primary education further so secondary students can put those foundational skills to work at exam time. Leaving it until they get to high school or NCEA level is leaving it too late. ECE needs to start at 0, as the first 1000 days of a child’s life creates the footprint for learning the rest of their life. This is proven irrefutably now. Currently MoE is not involved in educational spaces until the age of three years and so we are behind the eight ball already. The Education Act needs updating to accommodate the 0-3 years.

(Name and address supplied)

Reply - We appreciate the opportunity to address the concerns and provide clarification on several points.

Regarding accreditation:

1. You are correct that the Cook Islands Ministry of Education is not currently an accredited tertiary body itself. However, it fulfils the role in overseeing and regulating all accredited tertiary institutions in the country, as mandated by the Education Act 2012. This includes institutions like CITTI, CEIT, and USP.

2. Qualifications issued by accredited institutions in the Cook Islands are recognised within the Cook Islands for various purposes like employment, industry registration and further education.

3. To acknowledge training completion, non-formal certificates and diplomas are commonly issued. These qualifications are not accredited by external bodies, but they still hold value within specific contexts, such as the Cook Islands Ministry of Education’s Teaching Diplomas. These diplomas are recognised for teacher registration within the Cook Islands. The inclusion of these graduates in the CITTI ceremony specifically recognised their successful completion of the practical training component of the Ministry’s programme. Students who gained the accredited qualification associated with this, the USP Diploma in Teaching, will receive formal recognition during the USP graduation ceremony.

4. The Ministry is currently exploring options to widen the scope of recognition for offering qualifications that are recognised beyond the Cook Islands, including potential partnerships with institutions like NZ’s EIT (Eastern Institute of Technology). This initiative underlines the Ministry’s commitment to enhancing the value and portability of qualifications undertaken in the Cook Islands.

Regarding NCEA pass rates:

1. The letter raises concerns about the practice of removing students before exams. We strongly refute this claim and assure you that no such practice exists within the Cook Islands education system.

2. NCEA pass rates are calculated based on all enrolled students who complete their secondary education through the designated year. There is no manipulation regarding student enrolment to artificially inflate pass rates.

3. While the current 70 per cent pass rate is commendable, we acknowledge the need for continuous improvement. The Ministry and schools actively implement various interventions and support programmes to help students succeed academically, including those facing challenges.

Moving forward:

1. We agree that strengthening early childhood education (ECE) is crucial for building a strong foundation for success in later years. The Ministry is committed to expanding and improving ECE programmes across the Cook Islands as evidenced in the planning for the new Masterplan and the public statement by the Minister of Education.

2. We are also exploring the possibility of extending the Ministry’s involvement in education to the 0-3 age group, acknowledging the criticality of these early years in shaping learning potential.

3. We believe in fostering open communication and welcome further dialogue on ways to improve the Cook Islands education system and ensure every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

We encourage you to reach out to the Ministry of Education directly with any further questions or concerns you may have. The Ministry is dedicated to transparency and continuous improvement in serving the educational needs of all Cook Islanders

Owen Lewis

Secretary of Education