Review of Achievement Standards (RAS) - Pilot Phase: Religious Studies

Closed 2 Mar 2020

Opened 2 Mar 2020

Results updated 11 Mar 2020


Thank you to those of you who spent time responding to the questionnaire. We heard from 19 people between December 2019 and 2 March 2020.

The Religious Studies Subject Expert Group (SEG) wishes to thank sector members who gave their time to respond. We are especially grateful to those of you who put forward suggestions, highlighting the importance of this consultative and iterative process. We also encourage schools to trial the new standards in 2021, from which we can make any necessary improvements and gather a range of exemplars to support the sector. 


The Review of Achievement Standards (RAS) Pilot Phase commenced on 1 October and will finish on 30 April 2020. It builds on the extensive consultation and co-design we conducted with all New Zealanders with an interest in NCEA during 2018 which resulted in the NCEA Change Package. These changes provide the mandate for the direction taken in the RAS. They will result in fewer, larger standards for all subjects, and in Religious Studies, a focus on a broad foundational education at Level 1 – including recognition of mātauranga Māori as an essential aspect of New Zealand education.

Four subjects – Religious Studies, English, Science and Visual Arts - were selected to trial the development process ahead of the full-scale review planned to commence on 1 May 2020. Subject Expert Groups were established to develop new learning and assessment products and supporting resources for these subjects, and this work is being led by the Ministry.

The SEGs developed draft materials which we sought your feedback on and this is a summary of the feedback, with their responses. The feedback and results from the pilot phase will inform the process for all subjects at NCEA Levels 1-3.

Sample Course Outlines

Sample course outlines have been produced to help teachers and schools understand the new NCEA Learning and Assessment Matrices. We have two examples of how a year-long Religious Studies course could be constructed using the new Learning and Assessment Matrices. They are indicative only and do not mandate any particular choice of text or approach.

Sector feedback focussed on five main themes and these are addressed below.

Theme 1

Religious Studies in the Social Sciences Learning Area.


The Social Sciences Learning Area is about how societies work and how people participate as critical, active, informed, and responsible citizens. Contexts are drawn from the past, present, and future and from places within and beyond New Zealand.

Religious Studies under the Social Sciences Learning Area aims to understand religious beliefs, rituals, narratives, ethical regulations, identities, communities and institutions (religious systems).

The current Religious Studies achievement standards sit within the Social Sciences Learning Area. This connection to Social Sciences is now being stated more explicitly in order to better support and resource Religious Studies teaching and learning. This is an opportunity to raise the status of Religious Studies as a subject and reinforce its place in the broad Social Sciences Learning Area where it can be better recognised and facilitated.

There is recognition that special character schools have their own requirements for teaching and learning and these changes do not seek to undermine that. Rather, the aim is to create a suite of Religious Studies standards that can be drawn on in the widest possible range of educational contexts, from Religious Education programmes in special character schools to cross disciplinary social sciences programmes in state schools.

Theme 2

Links between the Learning Matrix and the Assessment Matrix.


This was partly the result of poor formatting of the Assessment Matrix. This has been amended and the new version will make the connections much clearer. The standard titles are a work in progress and will continue to be revised by the SEG as they construct more assessment material. The assessment material will clarify the intention of the standards.

The Learning Matrix is not a direct 1:1 correlation with the Assessment Matrix. The purpose of the Learning Matrix is to identify the Significant Learning in a subject which will generally be grouped under a number of Big Ideas for that subject. The Learning Matrix is a new tool teachers can use to construct a coherent programme of learning that covers all the 'not to be missed' learning in a subject. The Assessment Matrix identifies the learning that is most important to credential and gives the titles of the four standards that will be used to do this, along with their mode of assessment and credit value. It is important to remember that an external assessment does not necessarily mean an exam; there are a number of different modes of external assessment that may be selected. As with the Learning Matrix, the achievement standards do not need to be used and assessed in any particular order, they should be used flexibly in accordance with the local curriculum.

Theme 3

Questioning some of the wording in the achievement standards.


This is being modified following feedback and will be clarified in the revised draft achievement standards and accompanying material released for further feedback in April, including an extensive glossary. The SEG is very aware of the importance of clarity in the standards and ensuring that teachers and students know what is being asked of them.

The Achievement Standard titles released were first drafts and will continue to be refined by the SEG as they write the standards and accompanying material. This will clarify the intentions of the standards and more clearly illustrate the delineation between levels.

Theme 4

Resourcing and supports for teaching around the Learning Matrix and new standards.


The draft Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Guide is currently being written and it will be released for feedback in April. It will also contain a number of links and suggestions for useful resources. Supports will also be provided with the roll out of the new standards.

Theme 5

The Aotearoa New Zealand-focused standard.


The responses to this standard were mixed. Some respondents were very positive and felt this filled an existing gap. Others felt the scope of the standard was too narrow. The SEG is working on rewording and articulating the detail of this standard to convey the intended breadth and flexibility lost in the initial draft.




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