By Marilyn Smith
It is timely to share information about our 2015 Year 12 students. Once again, behind their results sits a host of backstories that give a human dimension to what appears to be just a list of numbers. It is these stories of challenges, mistakes, triumphs and persistence that ultimately represent the real achievements of each one of these young adults. It is these lived experiences and lessons that they take with them into the next stage of their lives and careers. While we share the pleasure of the students who have done very well indeed, as teachers we also delight in the often extraordinary achievements represented by much more modest numbers.
All of our students who applied were offered tertiary places in the first round of offers, the majority achieving their first preference and only three who were not offered either their first or second choice. Approximately 30% of our VCE students achieved an ATAR over 90 and 70% achieved an ATAR over 70.
Students chose courses in Arts, Building Design, Music, Speech Pathology, Commerce, Science, Mechanical Engineering, Business Management, Screen and Media, Physical Education, Interior Design, Mathematics and Fine Arts. RMIT and The University of Melbourne accounted for over half of the placements between them.
It is a travesty for schools to continue to perpetuate the idea that a student must aim for an ATAR in the high 90s, when this score, by definition, can only be achieved by 10% of the total Victorian cohort. A school’s reputation and status are enhanced by these scores and tertiary institutions inflate the cut-off score for entrances to their courses, in order to make them appear more sought after; however the pressure and anxiety created for the young adults who are forced to participate in this public marketing frenzy represent an ugly, and damaging, aspect of the education system. As adults, I believe we have a responsibility to speak out against these two-dimensional measures of worth and the simplistic correlation between high scores and the multi-dimensional qualities needed to succeed in so many divergent paths to a satisfying career.
One of our high scoring students achieved an ATAR in excess of the score needed to enter the course of her choice. A university offered her a place in a supposedly more prestigious course in line with her score and I felt a quiet sense of pride to hear that she rejected the offer and chose to follow her own pathway. This is not at all an uncommon practice; it is sad to think of those students who end up in courses they do not enjoy because they have bought into someone else’s notion of status and success.
The International Baccalaureate is actively working to set up more appropriate selection processes with tertiary institutions and we will provide more information about this as we move towards establishing this program in place of the VCE for our Year 12 students.
Meanwhile, I am confident that at Preshil our Year 12 students are challenged and supported to set their own goals, to know themselves and to stand proudly in their own right regardless of their academic aspirations. We look forward to keeping in touch with this year’s new Alumni.