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Poorly performing students are the ugly face of schoolies

Date

Chris Fotinopoulos

'No chance of being sprung' .. Schoolies in Byron Bay.

'No chance of being sprung' .. Schoolies in Byron Bay. Photo: Ben Rushton

BASED on the conversations some of my senior students have on Monday mornings, partying is king. I often hear them talking of risky behaviour fuelled by booze and drugs consumed in the homes of friends whose parents happen to be away on any given Saturday night.

And for those who want to get right away from the folks for the entire weekend, there is the option of a city apartment. It's not uncommon these days for teenagers who earn money through part-time work to band together and rent an apartment in town for an all-weekend bender.

It is these borderline ''toolies'' who don't have much to celebrate at the end of the school year other than perhaps a bare pass that the media tends to focus on. 

As a student who recently returned from end-of-year celebrations put it, ''schoolies is just another opportunity to party miles away from home without any chance of being sprung by your folks''. And it is this aspect of teenage party culture that the media typically taps into when depicting students partying in places like Bali.

Offshore partying in exotic destinations was once the domain of the wealthy and, by extension, private school students. The availability of cheap airline tickets and holiday package deals opened the way for middle-class suburban school kids, especially those who work part-time, to enter this domain.

Bureau of Statistics data shows the number of full-time students working part-time grew from 407,100 to 542,900 in the five years from 1995 to 2000. What's more, in 2000, 42 per cent of full-time students working part-time were still attending school and 64 per cent were aged 15-19 years.

The combination of part-time work with part-time study provides full-time students with the opportunity to participate in leisure activities, of which an escape to the Gold Coast or Bali for schoolies would be one such option for some.

The self-funded student party-goer is quite different from year 12 students of yesteryear. This can be partly attributed to our higher retention rates. I distinctly remember the Hawke Labor government promising to make Australia a smarter nation by raising school retention rates. It was essentially this policy initiative that led to more students staying on to year 12.

According to a 2000 survey conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research and the federal government, 35 per cent of state school students completed year 12 in 1984. By 1994 the number of students completing year 12 had risen to 74 per cent.

No doubt, encouraging children to stay at school is enormously beneficial for the individual and society, but it also leads to some students continuing with school when they probably would have been better off leaving earlier and doing something else.

The point that's often missed by social commentators is that the ugly side of schoolies is largely due to the behaviour of students who performed poorly in year 12. It's the kind of student who repeatedly neglects homework and refuses to attend after-school detentions because they work up to five nights a week.

I suspect these underperforming and disengaged students are behind the interstate schoolies shenanigans that we see on news bulletins.

It is these borderline ''toolies'' who don't have much to celebrate at the end of the school year other than perhaps a bare pass that the media tends to focus on.

Hard-working sensible students who prefer to celebrate the end of their secondary schooling in a less sensational manner receive no media attention. One of my year 12 students plans to catch up with her girlfriend for an all-night horror film fest at home. Another student said that she'd ''rather have a quiet time with some mates, just enjoying each other's company, maybe go on a road trip''. She went on to explain that ''schoolies is no longer a celebration of finishing high school, but another excuse to get drunk and party all week''.

Schoolies has become an ugly affair partly because there are far more kids completing VCE these days - many of whom shouldn't be there. For these kids, schoolies is nothing more than a dead-end rite of passage for a dead-end education.

Chris Fotinopoulos is a secondary school teacher.

252 comments

  • Great, an entire article based on what one guy suspects. Well done. Anybody take a look at that grassy knoll over there?

    Commenter
    idin doit
    Date and time
    November 27, 2012, 8:16AM
    • That's generally the point of opinion pieces.

      Commenter
      Spex
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:28AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      Benzilla
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:36AM
    • One of the worst 'opinion' pieces on this site ever. Kids who go on to be doctors, lawyers, CEOs etc go to schoolies. There would be far more people collecting dole cheques if this crappy article had any truth.

      Commenter
      matt
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:40AM
    • @idin doit I'm so glad someone has already said this so I didn't have to.

      Commenter
      Rick
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:45AM
    • Fancy that, opinion in an opinion piece! What an outrage!

      Commenter
      Zombie Jesus
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 8:52AM
    • Kids completing VCE who shouldn't be there?? That's just a hideous prejudice.

      Schoolioes is ugly because it involves binge drinking. By all of them.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:01AM
    • A response I would expect from someone the article is targeting.

      Great article and absolutely spot on. A whole generation that has no boundaries as to what is acceptable behaviour.

      Commenter
      daffy
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:02AM
    • agreed idin doit, this article is a bit of a waste of space. Quoting figures over a decade out of date, and basing his statements on supposition. Chris should have either researched this better, or stuck to teaching.
      C-

      Commenter
      PatMc
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:08AM
    • "Great, an entire article based on what one guy suspects."

      That's generally what you find in an OPINION piece, idin doit...

      Commenter
      Factor
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:13AM

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