December 9, 2019

Review of Senior Secondary Pathways: IRU submission

The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) group has submitted its comments to the Review of Senior Secondary Pathways, led by Professor Peter Shergold AC (who is separately the Chancellor of IRU member Western Sydney University).

The review seeks to help young Australians make informed choices about pathways into work, higher education or training.

IRU submission to the Review of Senior Secondary Pathways

The Review of pathways from senior secondary education to future education and employment posits the need to disrupt the current disjuncture between school and all that follows. It seeks to make that transition clearer as a general systemic outcome and better suited to each individual.

The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) supports the goal of the review. In Towards a Tertiary Future the IRU argues that young Australians need to complete school. They then need further qualifications and a means to access discrete, targeted sets of skills and knowledge as their future employment requires. Most are doing just this.

The problem

The year 12 certificate is the harshest point in the education system. The acquisition of education is mostly an experience of flow – where learning is gained and the person moves to another layer. The early school years highlights this with students moving from the preparatory year through primary to secondary schooling, with few challenges to that progress.

The Senior Secondary Certificate not just confirms that the school process is complete, it is used to determine initial access to subsequent education. It has the strongest sense of determining a person’s future for a long period of any educational outcome even though the reality of employment and income data would suggest it is the subsequent tertiary qualification that matters much more.

While in reality most people gain entry to the tertiary course they desire this is perceived as hard to achieve. It puts great stress not on completing year 12 but how well relative to other students a person does. This emphasis is so strong that the system has lost focus on demonstrating the actual achievement in favour of the relative.

IRU proposals

In its submission the IRU focusses at the Skills section of the Review’s discussion paper to advocate:

1. targeting the primacy of the learning that the school group as a whole achieves as fundamental to then ensuring effective transition to work and further education;

2. being explicit about the level of learning and skill development each person has achieved so that further education can build off and improve it; and

3. making more of the senior secondary certificates, to ensure they provide a clear basis for further education. The Certificates are strangely ignored in the current debate, as illustrated by the few references in the discussion paper, in favour of debate about the ATAR.

Read the full IRU submission (PDF)