Exam season is approaching and the anxiety among Year 12 students, teachers and parents is intense. But let’s take stock and remind ourselves that while the ATAR does open doors, students aremore than a single ranking.
In fact, the n Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) which students receive at the end of Year 12 is increasingly being questioned for the simple reason it is associated with a narrow measure of a student’s ability and intelligence.
Most schoolsexist to educate and develop a person academically, emotionally, socially and physically. Yet, at the end of 13 years of schooling, student achievement is defined by a single number, a ranking.Surely we need a broader assessment of student ability?
Principals have been debating this for decades and many parents and teachers are on the same train. This week, Kilvington Grammar released the results of an independent survey of 1000 parents and teachers in which the overwhelming majority placed a much higher value on “life skills” than they did their child’s ATAR score.
Further, 85% of respondents agreed that focusing on test scores like NAPLAN and the ATAR does not take into account all aspects of a child’s development and capabilities, while academic achievement and a high ATAR were considered to be of least importance in preparing children for the future job market.
The technology revolution’s impact on the work force is demanding more emphasis be placed on the development of key skills and qualities of character. Skills such as critical and creative thinking, the ability to problem-solve, and character traits such as adaptability, empathy, persistence and resilience are seen as increasingly essential to the future workforce.
In 2016, Kilvington Grammar launched The Character Initiative to introduce students as young as four to key traits and skills they would need to thrive in life. By embedding traits such as resilience, adaptability and courage into the school culture and curriculum we are reinforcing their importance in managingstudents’ general approach to life.
I’m not suggesting we throw out the ATAR – it does have its usefulness and place. It efficiently assesses a level of student academic performance and determines their suitability to proceed to tertiary education. But it’s time to rethink what it means to assess students at the end of Year 12 and find a more balanced system that takes into account a broader range of capabilities.
Jon Charlton, principal, Kilvington Grammar, Melbourne