Latin Crisis in New Zealand

Dear colleagues,


My name is Rob and I am a Latin teacher here in New Zealand as well as President for the New Zealand Association of Classical Teachers (NZACT). 


Word may have reached you by now that the Ministry of “Education” here in New Zealand has just announced their intention to abolish Latin as a curriculum subject in our schools.  I am reaching out to you in the hope that you might be able to support our efforts to petition the Ministry to reverse their decision. 


The proposal has been based on the following seven criteria which I have copied below.  Note that NCEA is our national secondary school qualification.  Level 1 refers to the third to last year of high school (15 years old), Level 2 to the second to last year (16 years old) and Level 3 to the final year of high school (17 years old).  They have proposed abolishing Latin at all levels on the basis that it does not meet any of the seven criteria.  I suspect that there is a more insidious hidden political agenda but this is the public rationale.  I have provided the responses of the Ministry in yellow below each criteria showing how it apparently does not fit. 


  1. How the subject fits with the policy vision of a broader, foundational NCEA Level 1 with increasing specialisation at Levels 2 and 3.

Response: lots of talk about Level 1 being broad and foundational.  Latin does not fit this model.


  1. The extent to which the subject supports the inclusion of important and rich learning from the National Curriculum, with as little overlap as possible.

Response: Latin struggles to connect to the national curriculum because it is not a spoken language.


  1. The extent to which the subject supports coherent and robust pathways into NCEA Level 2 and further study or training.

Response: Latin as a career pathway is very limited. 


  1. The extent the subject contributes to supporting schools to create well designed and coherent local curricula, which support pathways for individual learners.

Response: Latin doesn’t have a pathway.


  1. Demand for a subject and the sector’s capability to deliver the subject.

Response: Number of students is very small and NZQA’s capacity to deliver exams is limited with so few people.


  1. How the subject supports the Crown’s obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Response: Latin does not support these obligations, but nor do a significant number of other subjects.


  1. How the subject supports the credibility of NCEA as a qualification overall among stakeholders, including its credibility as an internationally recognised qualification.

Response: Latin as a subject internationally is not strong.  Does enhance or diminish the reputation of the qualification. 


The small numbers and apparent lack of clear pathways post school are apparently the two criteria which have been given the most weight. 


We have rallied our national media who have been sympathetic to our cause and offered quite a few interviews and articles.  In addition, I am receiving letters from around the world which I can submit to the Ministry.  I should add that they are proposing to abolish Classics as a subject at Level 1 as well.    


If you are willing to make a submission in support of Latin and / or Level 1 Classical Studies, I would be most grateful.  I have posted the link below.  If you have any other ways in which you might be able to support, please do let me know.  It might be best as international submitters to emphasise the wide range of pathways open to Latin students following high school and perhaps to highlight the international strength and reputation of Latin, plus its value as a subject in studying other subjects.


I would also kindly request that you send me a copy of your submission as well, if you are willing.  Then I can draw attention to the wide range of support from around the world.  Otherwise I fear that the Ministry will cover them up in the knowledge that they will be our best ammunition.  We will definitely never find out about correspondence in our favour unless we receive it too.


I am so grateful for your support and apologise for the unsolicited e-mail and intrusion into your time.  Please do get in touch if you have any queries.  Also please feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone else who would be interested and invested in our cause. 


I look forward to hearing from you.


Very best wishes,

Rob Griffiths.


St Cuthberts

Robert Griffiths
Head of Faculty: Languages


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