top of page
  • Writer's picturetovahstutoringcomp

Is NCEA Drama disappearing? A response to a Newsroom article. (Part 1)

I came across an article that discusses a possible end to NZ theatre and the performing arts, written by Emma Willis today from Newsroom. As a Drama teacher, and performing artist, naturally I wanted to respond to this article.

So, I have taken 3 statements and will respond to them in 3 blogs.

Today's statement is in regard to dismantling of theatre programmes within NZ education.

See Emma Willis' article here:

NCEA Drama / the performing arts are still growing in NZ.
NCEA Drama / the performing arts are still growing in NZ.

Statement #1: Dismantling Theatre Education in NZ

"It's also vital to recognise that the discontinuation of tertiary theatre programmes and courses (as well as other subjects in the creative arts) will inevitably have a flow-on effect to primary and secondary school teacher training, already under significant pressure. The dismantling of multi–generational theatre education at tertiary institutions will only aggravate the decline in education graduates equipped with high-level creative skill sets." Emma Willis

I believe in a causation effect for all things in life. Even in theatre, one of the first things you will learn is a theatrical perspective of Stanislavski internal response theory, which is similar to Newton's Third Law: Action vs Reaction - where it is important to keep the momentum of a performance by witnessing an action and then, as an actor, react accordingly to it. It is also similar to real life. In real life, when there is an action, there will also be a reaction.

So, when I read that if there is a discontinuation of tertiary performing arts, then it is likely this will ripple into high school as well. There will likely be some type of a causation effect. Whether that be the removal of the subject or not, is another story. But there's definitely many factors to consider and I don't think it is purely based on interest in the subject/student sign ups that would cause the discontinuation of the subject. I agree that if universities may not be able to supply the performing arts it is most definitely a factor. Another huge factor is whether or not NCEA will continue to make this subject available for students to achieve in and/or whether it will continue to be a university approved subject, as well. With the continuous development of NCEA, it is hard to say what will happen in 5 or so years. I am hopeful that it will continue to promote this subject.

I have observed the demand for Drama teachers over the last few years (due to a variety of factors) and I would say that if the performing arts teaching certification opportunities declined from universities, then this demand to find Drama teachers (particularly outside of the bigger cities) will increase. Putting other subject teachers (who haven't studied Drama before) in as relievers or long-term relievers (until the position is filled) will impact the quality of the Education provided as well.

when there is an action, there will also be a reaction.

A Brief History of the Growth of Theatre in NZ Education

Here's something that is apparent about art though, art is still looked upon as a growing subject and can be seen as a lower priority subject to the core subjects (English, Maths and Science). It really wasn't that long ago where we developed Drama and Dance as an official NCEA subject to take in New Zealand education. Drama was previously identified as a branch within English through usually Shakespeare and a branch within Music through choir, emotive singing, or at a stretch Musical theatre. Dance was a branch from Physical Education. is still looked upon as a growing subject...

A Brief Historical NZ Drama timeline:

After the war, New Zealand saw a rise in NZ poets and NZ playwrights in the 40s and 50s, which was seen as a great outlet for expression after such traumatic experiences. The well-known school journals also began to focus on creative writing in the 1950s too. These experiences allowed for readers to experience NZ creative literature, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2018) and although USA began using 'dramatics' in their curriculum in the 1920's, it wasn't until the 1980s where New Zealand started to see Drama as a subject, with a draft of a Sixth Form Certificate Drama in 1987. (Drama New Zealand, 2023)

I still remember being in year 12 and finding out that our school was about to have NCEA Dance. But I was a year ahead of this class so I couldn't take the subject, since they were beginning with Level 1. That roll out occurred in 2004. In 2011, I attended a teaching experience at a college in Wellington where Drama and Dance subjects were not available. Dance and Drama are still flourishing as subjects in New Zealand. Some high schools and intermediates are still experimenting with how they will offer the performing arts. Some places emerge the subjects, allowing for students to learn some of the Drama and Dance assessments in a rotation format.

The Value of Drama in Education.

It isn't surprising that the performing arts isn't carrying any weight for funding, because it has always been a battle for the arts community to be seen as a serious subject - Even when demonstrating that it is in fact one of great importance. I just hope that more support and awareness is placed into this craft, because it takes many skills to be able to undergo art. Some skills include conceptualism, creativity, communication, organisation, management, sequencing, forming, relating, and empathy. If you take a look at Bloom's Taxonomy, you will notice that creativity sits high up on learning difficulties as well. One could argue it takes a great intellect to pull off the performing arts.

One could argue it takes a great intellect to pull off the performing arts.

It is something that seems so obvious. So, why wouldn't it be a priority in NZ Education?



bottom of page