ATAR gone in 10 years and 'dire' HSC unfit for future: CEOs, educators
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ATAR gone in 10 years and 'dire' HSC unfit for future: CEOs, educators

The ATAR will be gone in less than 10 years, a Sydney principal has predicted, and the heads of major companies, policymakers and educators have all criticised the HSC curriculum as "dire" and unfit for the future.

"The HSC curriculum is so boringly prescriptive that we cannot breathe to do our jobs ... it's so prescriptive in how you do it and I'm not sure to what end, other than to get an ATAR mark," said principal of Wenona Briony Scott.

Kellie Parker from Rio Tinto says many big businesses no longer look at ATARs.

Kellie Parker from Rio Tinto says many big businesses no longer look at ATARs. Credit:Aaron Bunch

Rio Tinto's managing director of planning, integration and assets, Kellie Parker, said many big businesses no longer look at students' ATARs and the HSC may be limiting students in what they choose to study.

"I think we've got to sit back [and look at] what actually happens in year 11 and 12 and how it's a cookie cutter to get into university, rather than a mind-expanding opportunity," Ms Parker said.

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Existing tests, such as the HSC, also encourage rote-learning "at the expense of competency development" that employers want and the ATAR "may come at the expense of more engaged and intrinsic learning during the final years of schooling", a new report outlining CEO perspectives on the future of schooling has found.

"[Students] told us that the things they really wanted to study they had to do in clubs because the curriculum was really constrained ... but also the way they're measured meant that it was difficult for [teachers] to deviate from the standard curriculum and the modes of teaching," said Adrian Turner, the head of Data61 at the CSIRO.

Adrian Turner, the head of Data61 at the CSIRO, said the feedback he’d received from students was that their high school curriculum was restrained.

Adrian Turner, the head of Data61 at the CSIRO, said the feedback he’d received from students was that their high school curriculum was restrained. Credit:Peter Braig

"The second thing [students] said was they picked their subjects not because of what they were interested in necessarily but based on what would maximise the ATAR result."

Vice-president of Cisco Australia and New Zealand Ken Boal said "a broader scorecard, a more balanced scorecard, would be really helpful" for businesses and universities to assess students.

"We're not after the smartest guy or girl in the room," Mr Boal said.

"We look for this breadth of skills and the ATAR doesn’t really help us inform that."

Dr Scott told the Herald that the ATAR now has limited value for schools, universities and businesses and that she thinks it will be gone in "less than 10 years".

"Businesses are bypassing the universities, so they're recruiting directly and doing their own training, and we see a lot of universities now are bypassing the ATAR, they're coming up with alternative ways of getting kids into universities," Dr Scott said.

"The HSC curriculum is so boringly prescriptive that we cannot breathe to do our jobs," says Wenona principal Briony Scott.

"The HSC curriculum is so boringly prescriptive that we cannot breathe to do our jobs," says Wenona principal Briony Scott.

"And as a school, I don't even get access to the individual ATAR marks, so for me there's no benefit in a sense of having an ATAR because I can't learn from it."

Dr Scott said the year 11 and 12 curriculum also stops schools from being able to adopt more flexible teaching and learning models.

"The question is, could you do two HSC subjects and develop a portfolio and then work in business one day a week? You can look at that once you've got the flexibility to educate."

Business leaders have also questioned the existing age and year-based approach to teaching and learning, with one manager saying students should be tracked individually and only move on to the next area once they've become competent in the initial skill.

The report, commissioned by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, also highlights significant issues around literacy and numeracy achievement, educational inequality and engagement.

"In Australia, 42 per cent of 15-year-olds are not meeting minimum national standards in maths, and 36 per cent are not reaching the same benchmark in reading," the report states.

Additionally, 70 per cent of year 6 students from socio-economically disadvantaged schools did "not have sufficient functional literacy to engage with high-school level material, and were two to five years behind the national average".

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