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More than 4600 NCEA exam papers were left unanswered in Otago and Southland schools during the 2013 exam season because pupils failed to turn up.
In November last year, 83,152 exam papers were set out on desks in schools around the southern region, but 5.6% (4616) of them were left untouched because pupils were either sick, forgot to go to the exam or simply chose not to attend because they had already received enough credits to gain the qualification without sitting the exam.
Absence data for the 2013 NCEA exam period is still being checked by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, but active data from the organisation shows the number of unanswered exam papers decreased 16.2% in the past year, from 5506 in 2012 to 4616 in 2013.
Nationally, numbers have also decreased by 6.5% in the past year, from 82,680 pupils to 78,463 pupils.
While Otago educators were pleased with the trend, they said the number was still far too high.
And in the case of Southland, the number of exam entrants missing NCEA level 2 and level 3 exams had actually increased in the past year, by 10.9% and 2.5% respectively.
Despite the increase, Southland Secondary Principals' Association chairman Gerry Ward was not concerned.
He said the most important statistics were those which showed how many pupils were passing at levels 2 and 3.
He believed many pupils did not attend some exams because they had already achieved enough credits to gain the qualification, and it was a case of pupils being efficient with their time management rather than being too lazy to attend.
''Some students may well have good internal marks going into the exam, and may just want to focus on two or three papers available to them in order to achieve a subject endorsement.
''Students are increasingly focusing on getting subject endorsements such as merit or excellence.''
Otago Secondary Principals' Association secretary Gordon Wilson said the overall decrease in absenteeism was a positive statistic, but believed if young people were not turning up to exams, they were not making good choices.
Despite the decline, Mr Wilson said the numbers were still too high.
''Any young people that are not attending their final exam is an issue.
''I'd like to see the number continue to decline.''
He believed there were two reasons for the decrease in absenteeism.
''Schools are stressing the importance of getting all the qualifications they can, but the students themselves are also more engaged in the subjects they are studying.''
For the past five years, a careers festival has been held in Dunedin which seemed to be ensuring pupils were engaging in career pathways, he said.
''Once you have a pathway, exams fit into that.''
During the next eight years, NZQA aims to allow pupils to sit exams online once they have completed credits.
Many principals believe it would help further reduce the number of pupils missing examinations s because they would be able to sit them when they were ready, not necessarily at the end of the year.
Mr Wilson believed the system would have merit.
''If the young person is ready, getting the qualification when they are ready is better.''
NCEA examination results for the 2013 year are due to be released online today.