Press Release from the President of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC)

Associate Professor Sarah Masters

On Thursday 20th February the Ministry of Education made a press release regarding the changes to the NCEA level 1 subject list. The intention to remove all chemistry based standards at Level 1 has shocked our chemistry community. Our Secondary Chemistry Educators of New Zealand (SCENZ) sub-branch, which represents a large number of schools, has been fielding comments regarding these changes and the mood of the community is very clear. Our community has been actively engaging in what was believed to be an on-going consultation process around the proposed changes that we understood does not close until 1 March.

“Our secondary and tertiary chemical education communities are deeply concerned by the process surrounding this announcement by the Ministry of Education. The timing of the announcement is particularly concerning given that the feedback on the Level 1 trial has not yet closed” states Associate Professor Masters. “This is extremely disappointing.”

The NZIC’s education branch has been actively analysing the proposed Science standards. At a recent meeting concern was raised over the proposal to replace the existing detailed matrix of science standards with four standards that focus solely on the Nature of Science. Of particular concern is the reduced opportunities that students will have under the current proposals to understand how the world works from a chemistry perspective. This in turn limits their opportunities to become scientifically literate citizens. Hence the usefulness of the Nature of Science standards will be limited by the students’ lack of a basic understanding of the scientific principles and concepts.

“The NZIC supports the concept of opening science to more students with a wide range of backgrounds and we welcome efforts to achieve this. However, we feel that this can be achieved without the erosion of the discipline specific standards that students need as a scaffold on which to build more advanced concepts and understanding” states Associate Professor Masters. We are particularly concerned that the proposed Science standards do not embrace sufficient conceptual understanding to enable students to progress to higher levels of chemistry. We are also concerned that students at this level are not necessarily equipped with the tools to undertake the investigative nature of the proposed standards.

We note with serious apprehension that no details have yet been provided about the structure of learning in chemistry at higher levels. Finally, the proposed changes will impose unrealistic demands on professional development for New Zealand’s chemistry teachers. The NZIC is willing and well placed to contribute to future changes in NCEA while also helping to ensure changes reflect the needs of industry and the scientific community of New Zealand. The NZIC looks forward to having a productive discussion with the Ministry of Education over the changes to NCEA Level 1 in the coming months to achieve a positive outcome for all.

Contacts:
NZIC President, Associate Professor Sarah Masters, sarah.masters@canterbury.ac.nz 03 369 4229, 0220922630
NZIC Administrator, Joanna Dowle, nzic.office@gmail.com