A Message from the Dean of Studies

Our HSC Examinations are nearing their conclusion with the final papers scheduled for Tuesday, 7 November. Meanwhile, external examinations for our Year 12 IB students commenced on Tuesday of this week and will run until Friday, 17 November.

I have written in previous Dhanara contributions of the changing nature of approaches to assessment, particularly in reference to new HSC courses in Science, Mathematics, English and History due for implementation in the coming years. Year 12 students in 2019 will be the first to complete HSC examinations using these revised syllabuses. One of the key drivers of a more streamlined approach to assessment in the HSC has been the degree of stress and anxiety formal examinations present for students, teachers and parents. Recent reviews of IB diploma program courses have revealed similar concerns around ‘assessment fatigue’ with students, on average, required to undertake around 22 hours of formal external examination with multiple papers completed.

The HSC is not the only education system being redesigned. Indeed, many of the HSC assessment reforms due for implementation are in line with similar changes introduced in recent times in Hong Kong which more effectively allow students to develop mastery of knowledge and skills in a subject. The re-structuring of school-based assessment tasks in Hong Kong schools clearly indicates that fewer and more targeted assessment tasks are more effective in providing insights to teachers about student learning.

The New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) has no agenda to remove external examinations as a component of senior assessment programs and the final HSC examination will continue to form 50 per cent of a student’s final HSC mark in most subjects. However, the emphasis placed on this form of assessment as part of school-based, internal assessment programs has been reduced. Within a broad framework of ‘depth’ of content studied rather than ‘breadth’ of topics covered, NESA has mandated that school-based assessment tasks will be capped at three per course in Year 11 and four per course in Year 12, including the HSC trial examination. In addition, there are limits to the number of examinations that can be used to form part of a student’s assessment schedule in any subject. This is in stark contrast to current practices which can see a student currently in Year 11 required to complete no less than four and no greater than seven assessment tasks in a subject. This can amount to as many as thirty assessment tasks over three terms – roughly one a week on average. Assessment fatigue indeed!

The streamlining of school-based HSC assessment programs provides a fairer and more flexible HSC that caters to all students’ learning needs. The changes are designed to motivate and challenge students to achieve personal best outcomes, reduce undue stress and provide them with a wider range of career options.

Chris McCorkell | Dean of Studies, Secondary