CALLING FOR CHANGE: Alstonville High's Eli McLean is looking forward to finishing his final HSC exam tomorrow in more ways than one.
CALLING FOR CHANGE: Alstonville High's Eli McLean is looking forward to finishing his final HSC exam tomorrow in more ways than one. Francis Witsenhuysen

School captain says HSC is 'deeply flawed'

SCHOOL is out and the end is in sight for thousands of students across the state sitting the HSC exams.

But ahead of the nearly 76,750 students who will sit a total of 118 written exams by Friday, a North Coast school captain has called for an entire overhaul of Australia's education system and the HSC.

Alstonville High School Captain Eli McLean said he couldn't wait until the Higher School Certificate exams were over because "the whole HSC gamut is so demoralising that it just needs to end".

"In an education system you are supposed to set up a student for success and set them up for a brighter future, which the teachers here have done absolutely, but the actual system of the HSC and the education system itself is deeply flawed and needs to be reconstructed," Mr McLean said.

"It's not at all enriching, or beneficial for a student at all.

"The entire HSC schedule - the examinations and assessments - should be less rigorous and less focussed on how fast you can write and more on how well students can think."

Over the last three weeks the 17-year-old has completed seven exams in advanced English, extension one English, extension two English, modern history, extension history, music and is gearing up for his final exam in economics today.

He said the HSC exams were only testing students on how fast they could write and not the interpretation of the texts they'd been studying all year.

"The exams don't encourage students to think independently, especially in English - which is the only compulsory exam," he said.

"They say have a pre-planned structured essay and adapt it to the question and write as quick as you can and get it all out.

"I don't think it should be timed at all ... I think people should be allowed to write what they want in how ever long they need. More practical and self-directed learning should be taught in the public school system leading up to the HSC."

Mr Mclean revealed some of his school friends had given up on their original university preferences because of the HSC.

"They come to the end of the HSC and they've been battered and bruised and suddenly they can't do medicine or engineering because they don't get the marks they are aiming for because the exams are being externally marked," he said.

"They are being marked down in Sydney with people you don't know ... you don't get their feedback, you won't know what they think of it and you won't know why you got the mark you did. The HSC is nothing more than a competition and it shouldn't be."

He called for the government to look at the Scandinavian education system.

"They don't just do what we do here in Australia which is basically put everyone through this competition and then say who got the highest ATAR at the end," he said.

"It's not a race, there is like 70,000 students doing the HSC and by the end of it, everyone should be satisfied with their performance and not put through the dryer and pulled out or frazzled and tired - and that's what everyone feels like.

"The whole government should be more concerned with enriching students and letting them do what they want to do, rather than just being obsessed with education as a means to create jobs to fuel a dying economy."

He said his HSC study plan had been relaxed.

"I've been preparing essays, and flash cards, so because I have my final exam for economics my friend and I spent all day yesterday making 180 flash cards that covered the whole syllabus and we know all of them," he said.

Despite his opinion of the education system, Mr McLean students were well supported by the Alstonville High School faculty

"I'm really grateful we've had such a huge support network here at school," he said.

"It's so good that we have faculty here at school who do nothing but support and care deeply about how their students perform and what they do."

Mr Mclean plans to advocate to change the education system in the future as well as study arts and education at Southern Cross University in Lismore.

HSC results will be available to students from Thursday 13 December.

To coincide perfectly with Mr McLeans concerns, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Education Minister Rob Stokes announced the first comprehensive review of the NSW school curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 12 in 30 years.

"The world has changed rapidly since the last comprehensive review in 1989 and we must ensure the curriculum is as strong as it can be," Ms Berejiklian said.

"We want to ensure our students have every opportunity with the skills needed for the jobs of the future. This includes a greater focus on the basics including English, maths and the sciences."

Mr Stokes said the review would implement findings of David Gonski's latest report into Australian school education.

"Our review puts David Gonski's report into practice and will tailor the national education reform agenda to the NSW context," Mr Stokes said.

"Several recent national reports on improving educational outcomes call for curriculum review, and we are keen to ensure that these reports are answered by real action.

"This is a once in a generation chance to examine, declutter, and improve the NSW curriculum to make it simpler to understand and to teach."

The curriculum review also supports the premise that while the goals and values of education remain eternal, the methods of achieving these outcomes have dramatically changed, particularly with the development of information technology over the past 30 years.

The review will therefore examine the role of new technologies and teaching methods in delivering the curriculum.

The Minister said it is essential that the review draws on the expertise of teachers and ensures the curriculum continues to support them in the important work they do.

Another core component will be ensuring that Australian perspectives are included throughout the curriculum. This will include maintaining a strong emphasis on Australian literature, scientific discoveries and key events that have shaped our history.

"For Australia to continue to mature, we must first have pride in what has made us great," Mr Stokes said.

"We are a proud pioneering nation. The tyranny of distance once meant we had to invent, improvise, and do things for ourselves. A by-product of this isolation was innovation and the cultivation of incredible minds.

"It is time to look at how we can best support students to develop that mindset and those skills in the complex modern world."

The NSW Education Standards Authority will engage Professor Geoff Masters, CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research to lead the review.

"This review is a timely opportunity to demonstrate how the national reform agenda can be successfully tailored to the specific needs and context of high performing state education system," Prof Masters said.

"This is how Commonwealth/State collaboration should work."

 



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