EDUCATION: Will new exam system be an improvement on the OP?

08 November 2016

It’s nearing the end of another school year and while younger students are thinking of the merriment of the Christmas holidays ahead, many older pupils are beginning the anxious wait for exam results.

However, for current Year 8 students, the way they are assessed in their final high school exams will be very different to those currently taking their tests. A new senior schooling system is set to be rolled out in 2019, meaning changes to the way high school students are examined.

Instead of the current Overall Position (OP) and Core Skills Test, students will be assessed under a new system and given an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR). All other states and territories already use the ATAR system and the changes in 2019 will see Queensland following suit.

Under the new system, students will undertake some external exams. Education minister Kate Jones said this will ensure that scores are more easily comparable across students. “We have considered this report and carried out extensive consultation with education stakeholders and the wider community,” she said. “There has been widespread support for the introduction of some form of external assessment as well as broad recognition that we need to better support the quality and comparability of the assessment set by schools. There is also strong support for moving to an ATAR, particularly from universities.”

However, some believe that too much emphasis is placed on testing in schools and that we should consider other qualities that can’t necessarily be assessed in an exam. Gabrielle Stroud, a writer and former teacher, questioned the emphasis that is placed on any standardised test. In an article she wrote for the ABC, she said: “Our children should be celebrated for having a go, for shifting out of their comfort zone, for creating, for having an opinion.

“We need to start prizing values like bravery, humility, compassion and perseverance. And we need to view learning as bigger and broader than three-hour exams administered in the month of October. Education should not be reduced to tests alone and our students should not be reduced to numbers,” she added.

But Kate Jones promised that the ATAR will “recognise a broader range of learning than the OP system”, adding, “It will be calculated from a student’s best five subject results which may include one Vocational Education and Training qualification or Subject Area Syllabussubject.”

Kevan Goodworth, CEO of P&Cs Queensland, added that the consultation process leading up to the proposed changes had been “lengthy and deliberative” and the new system will actually mean “the reduction of the number of assessments currently undertaken by senior students”.

P&Cs Queensland explained that while external assessment for science and mathematics will make up 50% of a student’s overall result, for all their other subjects external assessment will account for 25%.

“This really is the best of both worlds,” Goodworth added. “We will have the continued strengths of the internal assessment system for which Queensland is renowned and also now the added transparency and quality assurance that a measure of external assessment brings.”

The rollout has been delayed by a year as the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority found it needed more time to implement the changes – the most comprehensive that senior schooling has seen in more than 40 years.

“I want what is best for Queensland students so I will take the advice of our key education stakeholders and won’t risk rushing this reform process,” said Jones. “We will deliver a world class curriculum and learning and assessment system for teachers, students, parents and the wider community.”

Do you have children in Year 8? What do you think to the proposed changes?

For tips on how to support your kids through their exams, read our article here.

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City

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