Defining Assessment Standards for a New National Tertiary-level Qualification
John Read, The University of Auckland
Volume 5, Issue 1, 2016
Abstract: In this era of public accountability, defining levels of performance for assessment purposes has become a major consideration for educational institutions. It was certainly true of the development by the national qualifications authority of the New Zealand Certificates of English Language (NZCEL), a five-level sequence of awards for learners of English as an additional language at the post-secondary level implemented in 2014. The process of defining the five levels involved benchmarking of standards both nationally and internationally, particularly in relation to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). This paper presents an outsider’s view of the definition of standards for the NZCEL, based on information provided by key participants at the national and local levels. The process has involved taking account of not only the CEFR but also the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) and the band score levels of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The paper focuses in particular on the issue of establishing the equivalence of NZCEL 4 (Academic) to other recognised measures of English language proficiency as an admission requirement to undergraduate study for international students. The benchmarking process was both multi-faceted and open-ended, in that several issues remain unresolved as implementation of programmes leading to the NZCEL 4 (Academic) has proceeded. At the time of writing, the NZCEL qualifications are scheduled for a formal review and the paper concludes with a discussion of the issues that ideally should be addressed in evaluating the qualification to date.
Keywords: language standards, English language qualifications, CEFR, university admission, benchmarking