Early data on NCEA achievement in 2016 shows improvement at all levels.
Modest gains were made on the 2015 results, beating the previous four years’ performance by students across ethnicities, school deciles and gender.
Despite overall improvement, persistent racial and class disparities in achievement were evident in the latest New Zealand Qualifications Authority data.
About 86.5 per cent of year 11 students passed NCEA Level 1 last year (up from 85.7 per cent in 2015), 89.9 per cent of year 12s passed Level 2 (88.7 per cent in 2015) and 83.4 per cent of year 13 students received their Level 3 (83.2 per cent in 2015).
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University Entrance rates also improved: 49.2 per cent of year 13s made the grade compared to 48.6 per cent in 2015.
Girls beat the boys for the fifth year running, with 89.3 per cent of female students and 83.5 per cent of their male peers achieving at their intended levels in 2016.
Both genders improved their NCEA performance by about 0.5 per cent last year, though boys’ attainment of NCEA Level 3 and University Entrance slid back a little less than 1 per cent on 2015 scores.
Rates of Excellence endorsement grew slightly while Merit endorsements remained stable.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was pleased to see national results improving in line with past patterns despite the November earthquake which rattled the country during last year’s exam period.
Parata said she was “delighted” by gains made by Maori and Pasifika students whose NCEA results were better than ever.
Their achievement of NCEA Level 2 grew by an average of 3.35 per cent per year since 2008; from 51.6 to 74.9 per cent for Maori and 50.5 to 79.5 per cent for Pasifika students.
Eight years ago those students “were struggling, with almost half leaving school without NCEA Level 2,” Parata said.
“We knew that was unacceptable and we were prepared to tackle the challenge head on. We made it our priority to significantly lift NCEA achievement, in particular for those groups the system was not paying attention to.”
However, persistent achievement gaps between ethnic groups and school deciles had not disappeared.
Maori and Pasifika students’ improvement at Level 2 was not equally mirrored at Level 1, where 65.9 and 73.2 per cent passed, or at Level 3, which 54.4 and 60.4 per cent of students passed.
Their growing NCEA success still trailed that of European and Asian students by an average of 18.5 per cent at Level 1, 11.8 per cent at Level 2, and 17.3 per cent at Level 3.
Umbrella group Universities New Zealand (UNZ) also pointed to a “significant disparity” in University Entrance achievement. Only 31.4 per cent of Maori and 30.7 per cent of Pasifika students reached the required standard compared to 57.8 per cent of European and 66.5 per cent of Asian students.
“This means that a significant proportion of Maori and Pasifika do not have the opportunity to take on university education, with the significant benefits that it brings to them and their families, and to New Zealand as a whole,” UNZ director Chris Whelan said.
High decile schools outperformed schools in less affluent areas last year.
A 1.7 per cent improvement in NCEA attainment in decile one to three schools (78.9 per cent) was dwarfed by the 12.7 per cent achievement gap between them and decile eight to10 schools (91.6 per cent), and the higher likelihood of gaining university entrance at wealthier schools (39.7 and 77.1 per cent respectively).
The bulk of scholarships were also awarded to higher decile schools.
Schools in the decile four to seven band did worse in 2016 than the year prior, with about a 1 per cent drop in their Level 3 and University Entrance achievement.