Tough road to tertiary ed
I AM the parent of a Year 10 student and we will be attending an information evening about the new senior assessment and tertiary entrance systems which begin in Queensland with students entering Year 11 in 2019 - that's my son's year.
The introduction of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank will see the end of the Overall Position score.
My eldest completed Year 12 under this system and it was a tough road. After 12 years of schooling, it came down to the final exam - the Queensland Core Skills Test.
I was pleased when I heard it was being replaced.
However I read a recent article in which education experts are calling for an overhaul of the ATAR as a criterion for entry into most university programs in Australia.
According to some, Australia's university admissions test is "outdated” and "largely irrelevant”.
Other analysis has revealed that only one-in-four students will be admitted to a university course based solely on their ATAR. While enormous importance is placed on ATAR, it seems the higher education sector is using it less and less as a basis for admission.
Students can enter university via early offers, aptitude tests or via certificate courses. Several universities also have special-entry schemes tied to specific schools.
Just like the OP system, attaining an ATAR is a stress-filled period with a heavy workload and hours spent agonising over subjects, scores, points and scales - a lot of stress for a number.
If this ATAR system is considered no longer fit for purpose, the question I ask is why the Queensland Education Department and Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre is introducing it?
Surely there's a better way to manage transition into tertiary education and ensure final year students develop the broader skills and capabilities they need to succeed in whatever path they choose?
There's no doubt there needs to be a system to measure student capability, especially with the tightening of university funding which may lead to a restriction in places.
To determine whether a student is a good fit for a course, universities are using aptitude tests, interviews, portfolios, auditions, bridging courses, essays and bonus point schemes to identify and select the candidates they want to admit. This seems practical and relevant.
The idea of all students receiving a rank to use to apply to any university around Australia, it appears, is becoming obsolete and rightly so. A number doesn't tell you if you are a good fit for a university degree.
An ATAR or OP may be the cheapest and most convenient system to rank students but is it a fair and efficient way of allocating placements?
The ATAR system is unlikely to change in the near future and, with Queensland supporting its introduction, I am sure to listen very carefully about what it entails.
But I hope our educational experts come up with a more creative and sophisticated way of assessing the potential of people to succeed.