Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Uncapped Uni Places May be the Death of the ATAR Obsession

Victoria University, Footscray Park campus, Vi...
Victoria University, Footscray (Wikipedia)
by Anne Jones, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic & Students) at Victoria University, The Conversation: http://theconversation.edu.au

Each December we celebrate students who achieved an ATAR Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 99.95.

In January, we are awed by what you need to study subjects such as medicine, or horrified that you can do a teaching course with an ATAR of 50. This focus on ATAR scores is clearly wrong.

We should be focusing on the skills students acquire while at university, rather than the scores they need to get there.

There are many ways to reach the end of a degree. Some students go directly from school into a prestige course at an elite university that requires an ATAR score placing them in the top 0.05% of the student population. A great many more will come with very different preparation.

Many students entering university each year don’t come directly from school, and many do not enter on the basis of an ATAR score, high or otherwise.

As University of Melbourne Professor Richard Teese has shown in his book Academic Success and Social Power, ATAR scores align more closely to postcode than they do to human potential, and that social background is the strongest predictor of success.

We should aim to be a nation with an education system with institutions that can assist students from many different backgrounds in achieving a good degree, wherever they start.

The story of tertiary entrance is much more complex than an ATAR score, and government policy is changing the rules of the game.

In 2009, then-Education Minister Julia Gillard released Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System, which painted a vision for Australia in 2025, in which 40% of the 25-34 year old population hold university degrees. That would represent a significant increase on the 32% of the same age group who held a degree in 2009.

It was argued that this highly educated workforce is needed to boost productivity growth. It is hard not to endorse the merit of building a more skilled, highly-trained workforce. To compete internationally, a country such as Australia with a small population and a high standard of living should capitalise on its education infrastructure to train its population as a hedge against a downturn in commodity prices.

To read further, go to: http://theconversation.edu.au/uncapped-uni-places-may-be-the-death-of-the-atar-obsession-11716?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+22+January+2013&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+22+January+2013+CID_5c10b48e29665269aaa7c5c8e90ab951&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Uncapped%20uni%20places%20may%20be%20the%20death%20of%20the%20ATAR%20obsession
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