More Quality, Less Quantity in a Values-Centric Education

Our Year 12 students have this week been completing their Term 1 Examinations which are an important precursor to the external examinations scheduled for October and November.

I have written previously of the introduction in 2018 of new Higher School Certificate (HSC) courses in English, Science, Mathematics and History. The reforms to the HSC are the first in nearly seventeen years and came about after extensive consultation by The New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) over a three-year period with teachers, educators, parents, business and the community. Our current Year 11 students will be the first to complete HSC examinations in 2019 using these revised syllabuses.

One of the key drivers of the reforms to the HSC has been an identified need for depth of content studied rather than breadth of topics covered. Recent changes in other high-performing school systems such as Singapore and Hong Kong have placed similar emphasis on the mastery of knowledge and skills and “more quality and less quantity” in a subject.

Guidance provided by NESA on assessment in the new HSC has prompted us to consider the place of examinations in our school-based assessment programs in each subject. During the consultation period, NESA reported that a significant number of Year 11 and Year 12 students were experiencing “assessment fatigue”. With up to six assessment tasks per course, a Year 11 student can have in excess of thirty assessment tasks, or roughly one a week on average, for the three terms of that course. To reduce excessive stress and allow more time for teaching and learning, NESA has mandated that, within the new HSC, school-based assessment tasks will be capped at three items per course in Year 11 and four per course in Year 12. As a result, our Year 11 students will this year complete only one round of examinations (in Term 3) instead of the two rounds of examinations conducted previously.

The HSC reforms introduced this year also promote a more “values-centric” education where nurturing students with the right personal, moral and civic values is of equal importance to the promotion of key competencies and core skills. This fits seamlessly with our recent efforts in the area of positive education where the perception of what counts as success in schools moves beyond academic grades alone to a broader suite of holistic measures where students can genuinely flourish.

For further information on the reforms to the HSC introduced in 2018, please visit the NESA website here.

Chris McCorkell | Dean of Studies, Secondary