Runner-up dux 'deeply sorry' for offence but stands by criticism

The high school student who narrowly missed out on being his school dux has responded after the uproar created by his controversial column.

Filip Vachuda, Onehunga High School's academic runner-up for 2017, wrote he lost the top spot because the winner "exempted herself from any math, science, or indeed, scholarship exams and extra subjects". As a result, dux litterarum Rosie Hayden had a higher grade point average.

"I was wrong to assume that certain subjects are automatically easier, and I can see why people would have thought that as belittling," he told Newshub.

"Nobody deserves to put such hard work into what they've done and then go and read something like that. It was really a horrible message to send, and I am deeply sorry it turned out this way."

In his article, Mr Vachuda  wrote he wants the way schools select their dux changed to give higher weightings to subjects like calculus and science, and lower the importance of physical education, cooking and "Polynesian dance".

"When we decide our top academic performers we should be leaning towards a system which prioritises subjects with a higher academic component," he told Newshub.

"This is stuff like literacy, numeracy, critical thinking and all that as opposed to creativity, performance and skills - which don't get me wrong are very important and have just as much hard work involved, but they're just not as academic.

"Even though she put in a lot of hard work the subjects weren't as academic in nature and so I think that at least in the calculation of top academic performers they maybe shouldn't have had as much weight as mine."

The principal of Onehunga High School, Deidre Shea, has defended the method used to select the dux.

"I am sorry that Filip is feeling this way. He has achieved extremely well and we are very proud, as a school, of his magnificent achievements. Our students, staff and community celebrated the success of Filip and many other students at our recent awards ceremony," she says.

"The process behind our top academic awards is the same grade-point average system that universities use for competitive entry across students' top five subjects. We are satisfied that this criteria is robust. The Dux deserves her award, and Filip is deserving of his award; both are prestigious."

However Mr Vachuda told Newshub he felt "a little cheated, almost belittled" by Onehunga High School, which led to writing his article. He says the extra work he put in should have been counted towards the selection.

"My problem was that when they calculate what dux was, which is supposed to be the top academic achiever, they didn't factor in that fact I had scholarship exams at all," he told Newshub.

"They didn't take into account my sixth subject and also my scholarship exam. If they had taken that into account I probably would have won."

He doubts the school will change its procedures, due to the" overwhelmingly negative" reaction. He's also unhappy about how other media got other parties involved when the piece was meant to be a simple editorial.

He says he's glad he started a debate over this issue, and says he's received "a lot of support" - although he regrets the way things have turned out.

"Many university professors have written me in agreement, as has, for example, the founder of Crimson Consulting. And there's been a lot of students who've said 'I really thank you for speaking out on my behalf'," he told Newshub.

"I have no apologies towards the people that purely disagree with my opinion, and I'm really glad people are discussing this.

"But I crossed a line of decency by writing this article and being belittling and inconsiderate in return. Again, I sincerely apologize to those I offended."