Progress or paradox? : NZQA, the genesis of a radical reconstruction of qualifications policy in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Administration at Massey University

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Massey University
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This thesis investigates the origins of, and influences on, the policy developments that preceded the establishment of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). It is a case study of qualifications policy and draws heavily on material gathered from interviews with key-players and an analysis of a range of reports and other documents. The report traces the policy origins from developments in early New Zealand educational history. An essential ingredient to the policy mix that produced NZQA is its frequently paradoxical nature. This study investigates the extent of this paradox and seeks to describe it explain it. It does this by a description of events and developments, and relating them, where appropriate, to relevant theory. The chapter on centralisation and control focuses on the contradiction of what appears to be a centralising development amidst a sea of devolutionary rhetoric is examined. The period of more detailed examination coincides with the tenure of the Labour Government from 1984 to 1990. The role of legitimation is discussed in explaining the paradox apparent in the policy mix that produced NZQA. The impact of the new structure and its associated framework on curriculum, particularly that of secondary schools, is analysed. Here the problematic nature of the split between curriculum and assessment is discussed. This section reinforces the discussion on centralisation, as it unveils the potentially centralist and controlling nature of the new curriculum structure. Concern is voiced over the National Curriculum and Achievement Initiative and how they may combine with the qualifications framework to provide a greater measure of centralised curriculum extending from primary school level and up. The impacts of a modular, or units-of-learning, approach to increasing motivation, flexibility, and efficiency is also scrutinised. Concern is voiced again about controlling influences and the impact of managerialist ideologies. While the potential advantages of modularisation are acknowledged, a critical account is given of its short-coming and dangers as a means of legitimating essentially controlling mechanisms. All three aspects of the policy, curriculum, centralisation and modularisation are shown to be instruments capable of moving the locus of control ever closer to the centre. This inherent susceptibility is in turn related to the prevailing ideologies, and in particular those associated with managerialism and neo-Friedmanite economics. Specific attention is paid to debunking the pejorative association of conspiracy theories with the searches for explanations for policy developments, and care is taken to explain that despite the existence of ideological pressures, much policy occurs in a rather arbitrary, even ad hoc manner. A range of factors that aided the shaping of this particular policy are described and explained. The thesis concludes that explanations of policy developments need to consider a whole raft of factors that shape a particular policy. Furthermore the thesis also demonstrates that there are several inherent tensions and contradictions that remain unresolved in the policy example it examines.
New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Education and state, New Zealand, Educational tests and measurements -- Standards