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The aim of any subject-choice process should be to provide better educational outcomes for all students. This study, however, found that many students do not understand the full implications of their NCEA course choices or course allocations. Māori, Pacific and lower decile secondary school students are particularly at risk of ending up with inappropriate choices if their academic potential is not recognised early enough and they do not receive clear guidance about the best course choices.
NCEA course choices matter, especially where students or their parents have aspirations to follow an educational pathway beyond school or even just to leave their academic options open. This study, conducted in four mid–low-decile schools in Auckland and Northland, found that reaching academic aspirations requires careful and planned navigation of NCEA courses. It suggests that informing and engaging parents in their children’s NCEA educational pathways may contribute to better educational outcomes.