New charges for scholarship exams

From this year, students wanting to sit scholarship exams in NZ will have to cough up $30 per exam, alongside the $76 per year they already have to spend to sit NCEA exams in the first place. Why is it that getting the basic qualifications that our society requires for any ‘skilled’ job costs money?

Sure, there’s financial assistance available to families without the resources to shell out almost a weeks’ food money for basic exams, and for these people scholarship exams are free. But that’s a whole can of worms.

What if your family is too proud to ask? What if they don’t meet the cutoff for some reason? What if the school doesn’t inform them of the existence of the assistance? What if the $20-30 that the fee comes down to is still too much? What if the family doesn’t believe the student deserves to sit the exams for whatever reason? There are a whole lot of what ifs that having the charge for even the most basic exams throws up.

As a society we expect that every school student at least attempts these exams. Why are we putting up barriers to them achieving this? NCEA is a basic educational benchmark that we want everyone to achieve, and I don’t think that anyone should have to pay, just like they shouldn’t have to pay for their schooling.

Of course, the reality is different. Education costs, and as a result the children of the poor miss out on things. Why are we discriminating against the people that struggle to put food on the table? It’s disgraceful. A free education should be truly free – all the essentials provided so that every student has the best possible chance of succeeding. Instead, schools are so underfunded that they have to ask for donations to keep things running properly. Free education? We’re failing.

Charging for scholarship exams is not ok. Charging for any exam, for that matter, is not ok. We expect people to sit them, so they should be free to sit. Otherwise, we’re just making it hard for poor people to succeed, and they already have enough barriers to success without throwing more in their path.

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