Remedying exam fiasco

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has advised schools how it intends to manage the fallout from the bungled NCEA level 1 German examination and a power failure which interrupted several examination sessions.

Candidates arrived at the level 1 German examination on November 2 to find the entire exam paper - apart from the instructions - printed in German, even though the specifications given to the 450 candidates and their teachers months ago said the questions would be in English too.

Level 1 pupils had to learn about 1000 German words throughout their course, but due to the lack of English-language questions, they were left to decipher some German words they were not taught and were not expected to know.

The mistake has alarmed NZQA and has sparked an inquiry.

NCEA examinations were also affected by a power cut in the North Island on November 12.

About 10% of the North Island's Transpower customers lost power between 11am and 1pm, including schools in areas across Auckland, Thames, Napier, Tokoroa, Lower Hutt and Masterton.

The cut affected NCEA level 1 German, level 2 English, level 3 Spanish and scholarship English.

Transpower was testing backup measures, which failed to kick in while the company simulated a ''catastrophic power failure'' on its interisland link.

Yesterday, an NZQA spokeswoman said schools had been advised how it intended to manage the derived grade process for pupils who felt their performance was impaired either during the level 1 German examination or by the power outage.

She confirmed no pupil would be disadvantaged by either event, and encouraged concerned pupils and parents to contact their school to discuss the derived grade process.

If a pupil felt their performance was affected by the failure to have the questions written in English in the German examination, or the disruption caused by the electricity outage, the school would make a derived grade application on behalf of the pupil by December 6, she said.

''The student will receive the better of either the grade awarded through the examination marking process or the recommended derived grade submitted by the school.''

Unfortunately, no derived grade would be available for New Zealand scholarship candidates affected by the power outage, she said.

Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Rick Geerlofs believed NZQA had done the best it could possibly do, given the difficult positions presented.

With regard to the German examination, he said despite good checks and balances being in place, accidents still happened, and NZQA was working hard to rectify the situation.

As for the power cut, it was unexpected and could not be planned for.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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