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Why Beyond ATAR?

Beyond ATAR: a proposal for change sets out an ambition to support young people to thrive within and beyond the school education system.

It includes three proposals to ensure that all learners can develop the knowledge, know-how, skills, attitudes, values, beliefs and confidence they need.

It moves the current fixation on a narrow measure of success to measuring the ‘whole’ individual, and the importance of rethinking the secondary school system to link more cohesively with the first-year post school, and the demands of a changing world.

Many people have said that ATAR is not fit for purpose. Why do we include it in our proposal?

There is much wrong with ATAR however it is an easy method universities adopt to ration places for high demand courses. Over time, we would hope all universities move Beyond ATAR to individual study scores that better reflect student achievement.

Our proposal for a Learner Profile  is a flexible, framework-based approach which would enable recognition of many different forms of student achievement – such as school assessments, or other recognised achievements such as AMEB music exams or Duke of Edinburgh awards.

It moves away from the current system which preferences examinations. It would provide a unifying document that students take with them through school and beyond.

The most important thing is to provide a fuller picture of student attainment that includes skills and strengths needed today.

Who has been involved in developing this paper?

At various stages, involvement has included three Vice-Chancellors, representatives from TAFEs, school principals, Universities Australia, Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, the Grattan Institute, Foundation for Young Australians, The Smith Family and other community organisations.

Dozens of submissions from educators, researchers, and the education sector were received.

Why did the paper come about?

Global education leader Charles Fadel in his 2017 Australian Learning Lecture urged universities to change the narrow measures of senior secondary education which are barriers to tertiary entrance. The challenge was set.

In May 2018, a forum, hosted by Koshland Innovation Fund with the Mitchell Institute discussed the issues Fadel raised. Two working groups were set up to inform the development of this paper.

Why do we need education reform?

Australia’s education system is at a crossroads.

The education system’s narrow measures of success – namely good NAPLAN scores and a high ATAR, are not supporting all young people to have the skills and know how most needed for today’s world. Other countries such as Hong Kong and the USA are changing.

  • 1 in 5 students does not complete Year 12 nationwide.
  • Nearly a third of secondary school students are chronically absent from school.
  • One in four young people at age 24 are still not fully engaged in education or employment.

What is the Australian Learning Lecture?

The Australian Learning Lecture is a prestigious lecture series bringing big ideas in education to national attention.  Each lecture in the series is a catalyst for a two-year program of events, bringing new thinking to public attention. The series features the world’s leading knowledge shapers to discuss the biggest issues facing learning today.  The decade-long project is designed to strengthen the importance of learning in Australia for all Australians.

There are so many education reviews underway, what is so different about this paper?

Beyond ATAR is not a review.

The education reviews that are being undertaken focus on updating the curriculum or qualifications frameworks to help the Australian education system evolve to meet the changing needs of learners.

They all have the same basic premise – what changes do we need to make to enable our education system to better prepare children and young people for future challenges? 

Beyond ATAR is a provocative and big picture proposal to rethink secondary school education in a joined-up way, and how to use better indicators to drive better learning.

We welcome a national conversation about what our young people need and deserve to thrive.

What are the three proposals?

An age 15 – 19 phase of education

That Year 10 to the first-year post school, is re-cast as a specific phase of education to support all young people to develop crucial knowledge, skills and capabilities. All learners should be supported to find a line of sight into work or further study. The intended result is to lead young people to a thriving adulthood, building on their individual interests, capabilities and aspirations.

The development and use of a Learner Profile

THAT a Learner Profile is designed to provide a trusted, common way of representing the full range of attainments of young people within school and beyond. The profile would need to be designed to enable any jurisdiction to map and align it to its own need, as reflected in its curriculum, reporting and certification systems.

Broader, more transparent pathways into tertiary education

THAT tertiary education providers adopt broader, more transparent entry criteria, design entry pathways and update their admissions processes to better align candidates’
interests, capabilities and aspirations with the educational opportunities on offer, and better reflect evidence about the progress and potential of learners.

Why three proposals?

The three proposals are designed to support the transition of a young person from school to work and entrepreneurship and into a thriving adult life.

They will assist in establishing priorities for curriculum reform of senior secondary schooling and improving recognition of student progress during this phase.

They will assist more learners to orient their way between education, community and employment options.

By broadening what success in senior secondary looks like, they will broaden the understanding of recruiters and selectors and young people themselves. 

Taken together these three proposals represent a radical rethink for Australia’s secondary system – and an opportunity to ensure that learning in senior secondary school counts for more than a rank.

How have these proposals been decided upon?

These proposals draw on a review of current innovative practice in Australia and on international reforms.

What if only one proposal was advanced?

To transform the system – which is needed – all three are required.

What are some of the benefits of using this approach?

We measure and capture every individual’s knowledge and skills, treating each person as an individual rather than reducing a person to a rank. We prepare young people for the world beyond school.

What happens next to the paper?

We at the Australian Learning Lecture would like Beyond ATAR to:

  • Prompt a much-needed national discussion about what we expect young people aged 15 to 19 to learn. It is not about prescribing a national curriculum.
  • Prompt the development of a clear, functional, working map for young people that shows the range of pathways that exist for learners, both within and outside of school.
  • Expedite the establishment of a joint task force, bringing together different tertiary providers with industry bodies, curriculum and assessment authorities, secondary and vocational education providers, to devise common measures and criteria for entrance to tertiary education programs.