Opinion

A new way needed when grading our year 12 students

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Around the state, year 12 students are breathing a sigh of relief — or fighting off stress and sickness as they hold out for their last VCE exam to be over.

The tests finish on Wednesday, November 20 after the first took place over a month ago but for many, the beginning was the dreaded three-hour English exam on Wednesday, October 30.

I still remember sitting my English exam, thinking ‘how am I possibly going to keep writing for three hours?’

And to make matters worse, you get through it and still have weeks to go, running on adrenaline and junk food, which ultimately ends in sickness come November.

I often look back at my schooling years with delight and a lust to go back to a simpler time but whenever I find myself reminiscing with school friends about ‘the good old days’, I always exclude the year 12 exam period.

It’s a tough time for young people and personally I don’t believe the pressure and test conditions do anything to gauge a person's intelligence or their capabilities.

To put it in perspective, do you feel you perform better during periods of high stress?

Working in a newsroom with daily or sometimes hourly deadlines has improved my ability to work swiftly and efficiently under pressure, but I would not necessarily say this is when I create my best work — and I’m sure anyone with tight deadlines in their careers would agree.

At the beginning of the 2019 examination period, a study was released by UNSW's Gonski Institute for Education, which found most people (80 per cent) wanted student ability and talents outside end-of-school exam results to be considered for university entry rankings.

The national survey conducted also found two thirds of respondents felt a reliance on the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank for university entry created unnecessary pressure on year 12 students.

Institute director Professor Adrian Piccoli said the results supported academic research that suggested relying on these end-of-year-exams exams as the primary means to gain entry to a university was not the best predictor of a student’s overall ability.

“There is a growing body of work that shows one-off exams, which are supposedly meant to measure a student’s whole-of-school experience, often do not accurately measure their skills, potential or overall ability,” Mr Piccoli said.

“Schools are also under pressure to ensure their students achieve high ATAR scores.

“School ranking tables created from year 12 exam results affect a school’s reputation and this measure doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of education available at schools but rather how their students performed in various tests.”

Although the situation is improving, more entry pathways into tertiary education are needed, taking into consideration a young person’s interests and capabilities.

The system needs to start looking at people in a much less linear way and start seeing people as a colourful box of pencils rather than a single number.

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