Just a trivial misunderstanding – history students’ ignorance won’t be penalised by NZQA

Sorry – but did we hear that correctly?

Sadly, we did.  According to an RNZ item in the midday news, students won’t be penalised for not knowing the meaning of “trivial” when they bumped into the word – apparently for the first time – in a history exam.

The chair of the History Teachers Association, a bloke by name of Graeme Ball, was quoted as saying he welcomed this news from the NZQA..

But perhaps we should not be too surprised.  The first objective on the list of his association’s aims is to “promote and encourage the teaching of history”. 

The teaching of the English-language component of the three R’s obviously is somebody else’s problem.

The NZHTA registered its position on Twitter: 

Very concerning that our senior students may have been disadvantaged in their exam essays because @NZQAofficial didn’t define an unfamiliar word.

No.  It’s very concerning that senior students have gone onwards and upwards through our education system  without knowing the meaning of a word as basic as “trivial”.

The Year 13 history students reportedly feared they may fail their exam because of their limited vocabularies.

But what they lack in a grasp of our language – sorry, one of our languages – they more than make up for in gall.  They launched a petition to have their ignorance overlooked by the examiners.

According to Newshub, they encountered the word in an NZQA Level 3 history Causes and Consequences paper which asked them to analyse the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with Julius Caesar, with reference to the causes and consequences of a historical event.

They were given this quote from Caesar: “Events of importance are the result of trivial causes” and asked to write their paper.

Students are now petitioning NZQA asking for their essays to be marked based on the students’ content and own understanding of the event because many did not understand what ‘trivial’ means. The word means “to be of little value or importance”.

Taieri College student Logan Stadnyk told Stuff he knew the meaning of the word but many of his classmates thought it mean “significant“.

Really?  And did they think this when (or should this be if?) they played Trivial Pursuits?

This is like believing “mindless” means “competent“, which – come to think of it – would explain why some members of Parliament have passed muster with the electorate.

The petition says the essay’s inclusion of the word ‘trivial’, which they describe as an ‘unfamiliar word,’ caused confusion among the students.

“The word, which many students were not particularly familiar with, meant that student’s had to write the essay based on their own understanding of the word. Many of which were different to what the word actually means; meaning that the true potential of many students are going to be covered (sic),” the petition reads.

“Please do not feel threatened for this is only a petition to recognize the hard work and efforts put in by many across the country.”

An NZQA spokesperson said the language used in the essay was within the expected vocabulary range for an NCEA Level 3 history student.  But candidates will not be penalised for misinterpreting the meaning of the word.

And thus scholarship is dealt another blow by our education authorities.


2 thoughts on “Just a trivial misunderstanding – history students’ ignorance won’t be penalised by NZQA

  1. This is a really serious indictment of our education system. And not only do the students have the gall to sign an illiterate petition but teachers have the gall to ask for a pay-rise. They should hang their heads in shame, but they are shameless.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Once I was in education and its incredible to see the ignorance of people in the education sector at the present day. As my wife says ‘its bad enough that you have such ignorant people in education but so much worse that they seem proud of their ignorance! and boast about it.’

    Liked by 1 person

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