A Word On The Australian Education System

Note: Originally Published on 21st June 2017

Australia is quite lucky in the sense that many Australians are able to have a great education. It is somewhat affordable, depending of course on the types of schools chosen (ie. public or private), but it’s worthwhile. But whilst it may appear to be that we have a spectacular education system, that it is creating a better future for many generations to come, there are flaws within the system that, well, should be addressed.

We’ll start by addressing schools in general and the ways in which they operate. This will typically be geared more towards high schools rather than that of primary schools, although I’ll just make a general statement by saying that primary schools have been operating quite well, and are able to take more of a focus on students, providing them with an enjoyable yet reasonable education. But onto the main context: high schools. High schools operate a system under the rule of the Board of Studies in what they teach and what students must learn throughout each year of their schooling. Typically, faculties are divided up into English, Maths, Science, Creative And Performing Arts (CAPA), Languages, Computing, Technical And Applied Studies (TAS), Personal Development, Health And Physical Education (PDHPE) and Human Society And Its Environment (HSIE). Each year, students are required to take classes from a mix of the subjects provided by these faculties, with English being the one subject that is compulsory for the entirety of a student’s school life. In most cases, students are also required to take maths and science classes from Years 7-10, as well as PDHPE, a combination of History and Geography, and Sport. Most high schools also require students to take Music classes in Years 7 & 8, as well as a language from a refined selection for both years. Students then typically select three electives to undertake in Years 9 & 10 from a variety of different subjects. Some schools may provide accelerated courses whereby the students undertake the Preliminary and HSC courses over an extended period of three years, and complete the HSC for these subjects in Year 11. In terms of the senior years of schooling, Years 11 & 12, students are required to select electives which come to a total of 12 units for the Preliminary Course (that is, Year 11) and 10 units for the HSC Course (Year 12). All students are currently required by the Board of Studies to undertake at least, 2 units of English, with all other elective subjects being optional. Most elective subjects are worth 2 units, however there are some which amount to 1 unit. These are usually extension subjects, such as Extension English or Extension Maths, of which there are two courses for each. So yes, it is a bit confusing at first, but once you get your head around it, everything becomes a bit simpler.

In each year of schooling, students must undertake and complete a range of assessment tasks which will attribute to their final marks/grade. These tasks may present themselves in a variety of forms, such as in-class or out-of-class essays, in-class tests, research tasks, performances (CAPA), viva voces (a question and answer/ interview/1-on-1 conversation format assessment), compositions (CAPA), and many more. In Year 12, some subjects also require a major work to be completed, whether it be a work of art, a work of literature or the like. The issue with assessment tasks is a major one that needs to be resolved. The issue is that the various faculties of high schools do not convene with each other too often, if at all, and therefore a reasonable schedule of assessment tasks is not drawn up. Students are given assessment tasks at various intervals throughout the year, typically with two week turnaround periods. And the workload and stresses that accompany it can really start to stack up when more and more assessment tasks are distributed in close proximity to each other. When coupled with added homework that must be completed for upcoming lessons, as well as personal life commitments of students, such as sporting, acting, music, or family commitments, the workload really starts to stack up. This can result in what could be seen as unnecessary stress being loaded onto students, in particular in the senior years of high school, and this can really change them as an individual. Students could begin staying up at night to complete work, in some cases doing ‘all-nighters’ just to be able to get through their schoolwork. And take it from me, this shouldn’t be happening. The sheer fact that students are keeping themselves awake all night with work or just thinking about all the work they have to do is ridiculous, it’s an obscenity. Staying up late to work through the heavy workload is highly detrimental to an individual’s sleep. A student might only get 2-3 hours of sleep on one occasion, maybe even less. This is in itself damaging enough when it occurs only once, let alone if it occurs multiple times. It is essential for any student, in particular those who are in their busy senior years of schooling, to try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, if not more. So it is therefore necessary that the faculties of high schools coerce more often so as to determine an even spread of assessment tasks and homework in order to avoid piling work upon students until they simply cannot handle it anymore.

The next issue that needs to be addressed is the pressure put upon students nowadays by their own families, in particular their parents. You know really, this should go without saying. I really don’t think I should have to make this point. But unfortunately, I do. Now and again, I’ve seen students feeling enormous pressure stemming from their parents as to marks they must achieve in examinations or various assessment tasks in order to please their parents. They approach assessments with the hope that they will not disappoint their parents. Ok so when I said ‘now and again’ I wasn’t completely being truthful. In reality, I see this literally all the time. And it makes me feel somewhat disappointed with what the world of parenting has come to. Now let me get this straight, I’m no parent. And I fully respect, ok fully is a powerful word, I respect the methods of parenting employed by many around the world. But seriously people, look what’s happening to the next generation. They are being ruined by this. Kids, well sorry they aren’t exactly kids, teens, well somewhat, maybe students would be best. Students are feeling the pressure coming from their parents. I’m completely serious in saying this. They are feeling the pressure so much so that they are pulling all-nighters just to somewhat ensure that they get that result that their parents want. I think parents need to have a bit of a look into their methods being honest. Sure parents might have these certain, mass expectations for their children, but please, when did it become a matter of the mark they want? Shouldn’t it be what the student wants? In fact no, shouldn’t both parents and students be happy as long as the student has done their best? That sounds a bit better, doesn’t it? Now I’ve never experienced these pressures myself. I’m quite lucky in that I have a brilliant family, with two amazing parents who are proud of me no matter what. But there are many students out there who don’t have this. They actually wish they had this. And that’s not something that should be presenting itself in the modern world. So to all the parents out there, I say this: don’t expect perfection. Expect what is real, not what is fabricated. Only expect that your child does the best that they possibly can, and love and be proud of them no matter what the outcome. All you can really do is give them food and drink and make sure that they are mentally and physically healthy. So that’s that issue.

One more thing that I want to address. The famous, or in actuality infamous, Board of Studies. That group of people that call themselves an organisation, but change their name every couple of years just to, well, irritate everyone it seems. We’ve seen them as the Board Of Studies (BOS), then as the Board Of Studies, Teaching And Education Standards (or simply BOSTES or just the Board of Studies), and, more recently, as the NSW Education Standards Authority (or NESA or The Authority or just the Board of Studies). They seem to think they’re above everyone else. They love changing the syllabuses for various subjects every few years or so, they love prescribing some debatably ‘fun’ topics and texts, and if there’s one thing I can practically guarantee they love doing, it’s ruining the lives of students in schools all over the state. Ask any student, they’ll most probably, in fact, almost certainly tell you that the Board of Studies is one of the most irritating organisations they’ve ever come across in their entire life. Even some teachers have expressed some dissent at the ways of the Board of Studies and the topics they set down for teaching students. They are just a group of people who don’t really understand how hard they are making it for students out there. So it would be great if these people actually went out and observed the piles of work being placed upon students, and how hard they are working just to diminish the stacks slightly. If they could see what the life of a high school student, in particular that of a senior was like, then they might just understand. Who knows?

So there we go. A bit of a take on the education system. Let me know what you think, and any opinions you might have can be left in the comments as always. Thanks for reading!


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