More than an ATAR

Our current cohort of year 12 students are part way through their final examinations in both the VCE and IBDP programs. When this intense period of assessment is over, our graduating students will turn their attention to future pathways. Recent destination reports indicate that over 95% of our students seek to pursue some form of tertiary study after finishing year 12.

Tertiary institutions are increasingly seeking to extend the profile of their students and are placing emphasis on selection criteria beyond the ATAR. Learning dispositions such as creativity, leadership, problem-solving and teamwork are being highlighted in both course selection interviews and admissions tests. The practice of considering personal qualities, characteristics and approaches to learning is relatively new on the Australian landscape but has been commonplace for tertiary admission in both the United States and Europe. Australian tertiary institutions are now realising that an ATAR only paints part of a picture of a student’s aptitude for study in a particular field and tertiary academic success more generally.

For students seeking to pursue a tertiary pathway in the Medical Science field, an undergraduate aptitude test includes components of situational judgement, decision making, quantitative and verbal reasoning and abstract reasoning. Other universities are seeking statements that accompany applications where students are asked to demonstrate leadership, communication skills and innovative and creative thinking. The Australian National University is asking students to provide information about work experience, community service contributions, sporting participation and academic extension.

These examples highlight the need for us to ensure that our students are ‘future-ready’. There is a natural synergy between our commitment to life-long learning and the emerging work of the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) and their ‘Education 2030′ project. A St Leonard’s education is not just preparing young people for a world of work, but equipping them with the skills they need to become active, responsible and engaged global citizens. This translates into the interdisciplinary units that are studied as part of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program and the units of inquiry that promote creative thinking and conceptual understanding. This continues to be extended in the experiences and competencies promoted through years 5 and 6. Our unique approach in years 5 and 6 to subject-based instruction by specialist teachers ensure that important discipline knowledge is emphasised alongside a conceptual lens that encourages deep understanding and the application and connection of prior knowledge to current learning.

The curriculum through years 7 to 9 continues to focus on innovation, creativity and conceptual understanding. By focussing on concepts that underpin a particular subject discipline, students are learning to appreciate that their knowledge, understanding and skills can be applied to a range of contexts and applied to situational judgement and reasoning. This ensures that learning is not merely something that is stored in short-term memory but that it is cognitively processed and therefore more likely to be retained and ready for future application. Our focus on student agency and academic resilience is encouraging students to develop important learning dispositions alongside subject knowledge. This reflects the current educational research which suggests that a crucial element in determining academic success remains something within a students’ control. This also remains an essential skill for tertiary education where student learning is often self-directed, independent and reliant on self-motivation.

In the last week of November, our current year 10 and 11 students will begin a two-week transition program which will see them commence new course content, meet their teachers and move into the summer holidays with a clearer understanding of the expectations of the year ahead. This transition is important to ensure that students are beginning both their VCE and IBDP studies with confidence. Both the pastoral and academic programs in Senior School continue to emphasise the importance of seeing learning as a journey of discovery and growth, and while academic results are one indicator of success, our community and indeed many of the tertiary institutions that our students will engage with see life-worthy and life-long learning as equally important.

A St Leonard’s education continues to prepare students to meet the demands of the current tertiary admissions processes but also equips them with the skills and dispositions which are of increasing value to workplaces, ensuring that our students remain ‘future ready’ in a dynamic employment and educational landscape.

Susanne Haake
Director of Academic Development