Māori immersion students further disadvantaged by NCEA maths exam

By Talisa Kupenga

A Gisborne District Councillor and father of six is calling for NZQA to re-evaluate its exam systems after his daughter who learns in Te Reo Māori, had to sit her NCEA Maths exam in English.

Josh Wharehinga says Maths is one of his daughter's strongest subjects, but she and a number of other Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Horouta Wānanga students had to sit the exam in English because no Māori exam papers or blank Māori exam papers were available on site. He says this would not only inaccurately reflect the students' abilities but could disadvantage their grade average, university entrance and scholarship opportunities.

Wharehinga says his daughter was further disadvantaged by the same NCEA Level 1 Maths exam that's already being slammed as too difficult.

"My daughter freaked out and she also immediately put up her hand and asked for a blank exam in Te Reo Māori and they had no Te Reo Māori blank exams."

Since speaking-out Wharehinga has been contacted by parents of current and former students at other schools who have had the same experience, which also extends to other subjects.

"The fact this hasn't just occurred in maths, this has occurred in other subjects, the fact that this hasn't just occurred this year and it's occurred in previous years, leads me to believe there is a really bad system error in there somewhere and it needs systemic change."

NZQA told Te Kāea

"The school did request te reo Māori translations of examination papers for its students [but these] were sent to Ngata College, as it had been advised that was the examination centre the students would be attending. Unfortunately, we have since learned that the students attended another school that did not have translated versions of the examination papers.
"Since becoming aware of the issue on Wednesday morning, NZQA has contacted Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Horouta Wānanga and confirmed where its students will sit the remainder of their examinations [and] arrange for any translated papers to be available at that school."

Wharehinga says, "A lot of [the students] strive for excellence and a lot of them are already looking past high school around their scholarship applications and in regards to my baby, this could be the difference between whether or not she does actually get a scholarship upon applying to university. If they have to come all the way back to how she did in her maths exam at NCEA Level 1 that's really going to hurt."

Horouta Wānanga told Te Kāea it is investigating the matter and could not comment at this point.

NZQA told Te Kāea it will work with the school to look at the situation for the students who sat the maths exam, it was yet to provide a response about whether or not it will review its wider exam process.