I don't think delaying the assessments will help with learning, there needs to be markers to assess students' progress, and the impending assessment incentivises students to study and learn. In saying that, I think open book tests, or internal assessments rather than exams are more useful because they replicate real life situations, and don't unfairly disadvantage students who suffer from anxiety related illnesses and don't cope with exams (which can test memory more than intellectual understanding anyway).
I also am often embarrassed with our education system when talking with European counterparts (who can often speak three languages fluently by the age of 17).
I would leave NCEA and adopt the Cambridge system from the UK, some private schools in NZ use this. I think it is more advanced than NCEA, and challenges students to a deeper level of critical thinking. I think it also rewards and equips students with a more in-depth and academic experience moving forwards on to either university or working after High School.
At my high school years 9 and 10 were really unfocused, with the vast majority (apart from the accelerated classes) not caring about academics. With the introduction of NCEA and the credits system it gave a sense that everything 'meant something', and pushed me to try harder at maths in order to get E credits. Without that, I doubt I would have ever got the skills to go into engineering.
Children learn by role modeling adults. Schools remove students from adult society and then don't understand why the culture of schools becomes one of antagonism: kids vs teachers, bullying, kids deriving status from resisting teacher expectations, teacher burnout, teacher and student frustration and a continual yet fruitless search by the profession to make a failed system better. Your call for better schooling is not new. It's been a prime debate for decades now... and like the war on drugs; it's never going to be won.
Sure, stop teaching kids to pass tests is a better tweak, but it's nothing more than tweaking a failed system.
Gareth, if you really propose to be the one to turn the system upside down, then take a step back and ask yourself why it was that humans successfully prepared their children to become adults in every society and every era except our own.
Schooling is a recent idea, brought about by the industrial revolution and then by the rebranding of citizens as consumers. Learning is about enabling children to become adults. The values of society change, hence we value people who can read, write and master the sophisticated systems of our modern world, thus our education system takes longer than it did when people lived in subsistence environment. But the basic principle remains.
If you have a look at most children's play, it is emulating adult activities. It's how humans are wired. Our school system will never work because it does not acknowledge how children learn. Instead it is based on a military/factory model in which information is forced onto unwilling participants with massive inefficiencies due to a fundamentally confrontational structure
Stop building schools in isolated campuses. Start building storefront schools. You don't have to change the curriculum; you can continue with public education; just get kids into adult society. Lunch break is not on the school grounds that breed bullying. Instead, have them take lunch amid adults in the village, town and city. Design the classrooms with big windows that let kids observe adults at work - it's not day dreaming, it's role modelling. Support internships and apprenticeships. Change child-labour laws to enable children to be a part of workplaces without exploiting them. Enable our kids to understand why they need an education. BTW: it's also a lot cheaper to build this way.
Now, before someone flags this as impractical, realise that the global population is increasing and NZ will grow too. Make the change incrementally. Include it in town planning. The education of our young is part of society, not a separate component.
And of course, be aware of something else that is really new. Since the very recent introduction of digital devices, the education of children is almost completely out of control of adults. Most of what they experience online is entertainment; ranging from violence to porn to rampant consumerism. We are spawning a new generation of kids who cannot string together complete sentences, who have unnaturally short attention spans, do not understand human intimacy, and as Kiwis, are speaking with American accents since their primary role models are no longer adults, but what they hear on the digital device.
That's a whole different agenda, but it will not be addressed by testing, or teacher status. NZ has a deficit when it comes to face-to-face experiences for kids. We think that sport is the only answer, and it's really hard to be a kid in NZ as a result.