ACHIEVING THE BALANCE BETWEEN QUALIFICATIONS AND QUALITIES
“Jobs lost to automation…Universities looking to ATAR alternatives…Service sector jobs to grow…Mining sector skills shortages to return…”
Paraphrased from recent news bulletins, the above statements can, I am sure, contribute some uncertainty (and perhaps even confusion and concern) to family discussions, especially for those families whose young people are making course decisions across ASC’s different secondary school pathways and regarding university preferences.
Whether students are seeking further education or employment beyond ASC, we are keen for them to have choice and opportunity, and the sense of empowerment that can accompany that. However, society is in unprecedented territory in this regard and, as the media reports illustrate, and the rate of social and technological change accelerates, it can be a confusing and concerning environment in which to be making decisions.
As mentioned, our quest is to provide choice and balance for our diverse and non-selective student community, and to support each student in whatever endeavours s/he chooses.
Rather than an “either/or” model, it is an “and/and” approach…perhaps best summed up as “ATAR Plus”.
At ASC we have students pursuing six ATAR subjects from the beginning of Year 11 to the end of Year 12; we also have students taking four or five ATAR subjects, along with some Certificates, perhaps, and even simultaneously running their own enterprises, funded by their part-time employment; and we have other students doing a wholly General pathway course, some of whom have tertiary aspirations and some who do not…
Certainly, the vast majority of All Saints’ students are seeking the highest possible ATAR they can achieve in order to have choice and opportunity at the tertiary level. Some statistics from our Class of 2017 attest to this, with:
- 7% of the eligible cohort achieving an ATAR of 99 or above;
- 26% achieving an ATAR of 95 or above;
- 46% achieving an ATAR of 90 or above,
and so on.
Could we improve these statistics (that is, increase these percentages of the “eligible cohort”) and thus position ourselves higher in the “league tables” that the newspaper prints annually (in what is evidently and interestingly their highest-selling edition of the newspaper for the whole year)?
Yes, we could if we wanted to change our philosophy and only permit students achieving above a certain mark to study a certain subject, thereby reducing our “eligible cohort” and increasing the percentage of students achieving in the top percentiles.
IS THAT THE “RIGHT” THING TO DO?
If we were solely concerned with the College’s placement on the league table, then yes, it would be.
Morally and ethically? Each school makes its own choice about this but, at ASC, we don’t believe such preclusion is the right thing to do. While we are committed to optimising our students’ academic success – and obviously not facilitating their failure – we also believe that our students ought to be allowed to study subjects that they wish to study, subjects that they enjoy and for which they have a passion.
As a result, while we will always strive to do all we can to support our many, many very high-achieving ATAR students who win exhibitions and certificates of excellence, and while we will continue to counsel each student carefully, our philosophy also means we are here for those students for whom success isn’t measured entirely in that way.
Optimising our students’ ATARs is certainly a key priority for us, driving many ASC decisions.
Additionally, there are other factors to be taken into consideration as we strive to do all we can to ensure we are most effectively preparing our students for life beyond the College…
THE FUTURE OF WORK AND THE “GIG” ECONOMY
There is no doubt that the world of work is changing and that these changes are already impacting the lives of young people. They no longer face long-term employment with one employer, instead having to consider their careers through the lens of portfolios, projects, mobility and entrepreneurship.
On that, I am sure everyone has heard of the “gig economy” which our young people are increasingly facing: where they will need to “pitch” themselves against others in order to win a “professional gig” – a temporary job, or a sliver of a part-time contract – and, while they are fulfilling that contract, they will be simultaneously having to scan the horizon, getting ready to pitch for the next “gig”.
In an analysis of census data, McCrindle Demographers (Business Insider, 23 October 2017), confirm that “the gig economy is on the rise”, and this was certainly reiterated by Dr Jan Owen AM (CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians) when she met with our students and parents last term.
We know from leading international research (and demonstrated recently by ANU with the announcement of their new intake process that will directly affect Australia’s current Year 11 population – another example of an “ATAR Plus” approach) that whatever pathway or combination of pathways students may choose, in addition to achieving great grades or results, there is an increasing focus by the universities and employers (whose attention our young people need to attract) on a range of other experiences and skills (interpersonal and “21st century” skills).
It would be remiss, therefore, for any school not to be supporting their students by the provision of these opportunities and the development of these skills. And again, this isn’t about an “either/or” approach – “I can achieve a high ATAR or develop those essential EQ and 21st century skills / experiences” – it is an “and/and” approach:
Further relevant reading can be found in Jan Owen’s Foundation for Young Australians’ latest report, The New Work Reality, which you can read by clicking HERE.
At ASC, we really value our diversity and non-selective approach. In order to meet the needs of our microcosm of the world, we emphasise balance and choice, and we are committed to honouring and supporting as best we possibly can – through our many and varied carefully planned strategies – each student in his/her choices.
Ms Belinda Provis