End the HSC exam
Last year was remarkable in a number of ways – no more pointed than in education.
But one of things that was made crystal clear was that there was no way to make the HSC fair over the entire state, due to the following inequities:
• Schools that had easy and complete access to online learning compared to those who had a majority of students who did not have their own devices.
• Students with their own rooms and access to wifi compared to those in apartments where two three or four people were trying to access wifi.
• Schools that could bring students in for practice exams in the second and third school holidays compared to those that did not have the money or facilities to give students that practice under exam conditions.
• Students who had a harder time dealing with the vagaries of the situation – look at the statistics for adults and the pressure felt by many families even without an exam to work towards.
• Families whose members were isolated and thus family bonds that would serve as an anchor were instead a source of angst and uncertainty.
Some of these points were unique to this year but others aren’t.
Increasingly we need to look at how fair or unfair is this exam which takes so much ‘air’ in school planning.
Do we really want or accept the league tables and constant publicity which puts 17 and 18 year olds (as well as their families) under a spotlight they did not ask for?
Do we really think that any exam ‘block’ can be fair when some students will have three or four exams in a week and others one or two spaced out – who knows which is better?
Do we really think that a block that goes over three to three and a half weeks is equally fair by gender?
Do we really think there is a fair way to judge Visual Arts versus Physics,in terms of academic prowess needed for future employment? Does an engineer need the science or the ability to visualise potential buildings or both equally?
Do we really trust numbers and more importantly the hidden system that produces them that much that we distinguish ‘achievement’ down to the decimal points?
Do we trust a system where 90 percent of those who deliver curriculum – maybe more, have little or no idea how numerical ‘grades’ are turned into a godlike ATAR number? Can you explain it? Ask any student who receives 75 in every course and yet has an ATAR nowhere near 75.
There are so many wonderful potential ways to assess ability rather than a one off exam – we are letting down our students with an exam system that is inherently unfair no matter what year in the 21st century.
If it were a sport where the same team ‘won’ for over 25 years, would we accept it as we do the HSC standings published every year? Wouldn’t this fact alone tell us the system is hardly fair nor equitable!
It is time to change – now so more students do not suffer – not just as they did in 2020 but this year and beyond – with all that is possible it is time to look to a new potential, not back at what has always been. Surely our students deserve far more - and if we do not change then we are complicit in every aspect of the pressure and stress it creates…now is the time.
End the HSC Exam!