Teacher journal archive (2008-2011)

Article Title

It's the exams, stupid


The author argues that one of the most stupid features of the Australian education system is the way students' capacity for tertiary study is assessed. As students complete their final exams, most will receive a tertiary entrance ranking. These are determined by taking raw scores, scaling them for subject weighting and standardising them so they can be compared across the nation. A score is then derived that is then used to rank students from the highest to the lowest and tertiary institutions decide which students they are prepared to accept into their courses. In 2010, most state and territory systems - except Queensland's - will be replaced by the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, but it is a shame that an opportunity for a more radical rethink of such an inadequate system is being missed. What is so bad about this system? It is a grossly inaccurate measure of students' real abilities, and it is calculated on the basis of one final exam. The author discusses several 'stupid assumptions' on which this system is based: exams are primitive measures of abilities and capacities; non-government schools feature more in the highest rankings as their teachers are often involved in exam development and correction; exams are not assessments of deep learning but are essentially memory tests; education is not really about learning for every student. The most stupid thing about this inaccurate ranking system is how the rankings affect students' lives. Thankfully, attempts are being made to provide alternatives. [Author abstract, ed]

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