Preshil has not made a practice of publishing VCE results, except as required for compliance purposes. The School has held to the view that the value of a student’s achievement cannot be simply assessed by a ranking based on a limited set of competitive assessments.
Rather than pressuring all students to achieve the highest ATAR they possibly can, we are more concerned to encourage each student to establish their own pursuits and goals for success and to assist them to find the courses and the pathways to achieve their preferred post school destination.
Of our VCE graduates for 2014, almost all of those students seeking to gain a tertiary placement were offered their first or second preference of a course in the first round of offers. This is, in fact, the whole point of the VCE; to select and gain entry to a chosen course or employment opportunity which will provide the first step to adult independence and individual identity. We don’t want all our students to conform to a narrow definition of success or be humiliated by not meeting someone else’s expectations for them.
Our Year 12 students selected a very wide range of career paths, including Information Technology, Biomedicine, Aviation, Arts, Music, International Business, Sound Engineering, Communications and Science. A number of students seeking entrance to study Fine Arts have taken the 2015 year to travel and refine their folios before enrolling in 2016. One student will continue to pursue her already blossoming career as a professional actor.
There are some stories which seem to me to be particularly worthy of comment, because they illustrate the approach of our students to notions of VCE success. One of our students had sights set on studying medicine, but did not want to limit the choice of VCE studies to the usual subjects which are considered most likely to attain that elusive high score, instead deciding to include Studio Arts and Philosophy. This student achieved an ATAR of 98.25 and was offered a place in Science at the University of Melbourne with the prospect of post-graduate studies in Medicine.
Another student successfully completed Year 12 Philosophy and Literature having started at Preshil in Year 7 with only the most basic levels of literacy. I have no doubt he will flourish in his career; his persistence, genuine intellectual curiosity and his capacity for hard work will allow him to succeed in whatever area he sets his sights, including the tertiary course he was offered.
All of our students approach their VCE with the knowledge that, while their VCE result is of value, there are many paths to their future happiness and success, most of them invisible from the vantage point of secondary school in Melbourne and most of them still waiting to be created. Their passions and pursuits outside of their academic studies often point the way to the adults they will become more reliably than the inevitably narrow measures of success set up by schools.
Preshil places great emphasis on individuality and creativity. Many schools make similar claims, but continue to impose a host of rules and expectations which actually enforce hierarchical cultures of conformity, obedience and single minded pursuit of narrow definitions of success. Certain qualities are rewarded, non-conformity punished and students are taught that there is a ‘right answer’. These attributes are perfectly suited to producing workers for a harmonious production line, but are inhibitors of the qualities being demanded in the world of tomorrow.
The boundless creativity and imagination of early childhood might survive into adulthood, but too often by following the path of the rebellion, alienation and depression that accompanies feelings of difference and being different.
Preshil has continued to base its programs on core values which encourage our children, from the earliest stages, to explore, to question, to make choices and to make mistakes. These elements look very different at different stages of development – from young children making tentative progress climbing up a tree or building a cubby to adolescents trying out different versions of ‘cool’, to young adults exploring a radical philosophical proposition or questioning. Challenging, questioning, being actively critical and unwilling to simply accept conventional wisdom – these are the precursors, and the breeding ground to develop the confidence and self-belief that generates innovation and invention.
We salute each one of our students and look forward to welcoming them back as alumni.
Preshil, The Margaret Lyttle Memorial School