Pre-qualifying for the HSC

21 February 2018

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

From this year, Year 9 students across NSW will be required to pre-qualify for the Higher School Certificate. What does all this mean? Simply, students will need to meet a minimum standard (above band 8) in reading, writing and numeracy in order to receive a certificate at the end of Year 12. That doesn’t mean that students won’t be able to sit the HSC, apply to university or enter employment if they don’t meet the minimum band in Year 9. It just means that they won’t have a credential at the end of Year 12 until they pre-qualify.

The irony is that if students don’t pre-qualify in Year 9, they can try again online in Years 10, 11, 12 and even after the HSC.  In essence, the new Year 9 requirements are not designed to hold students back. Rather, it is a policy measure aimed at increasing the confidence of business and universities that students are leaving school with solid literacy and numeracy skills.

For parents and students though, it makes NAPLAN particularly in Year 9 even more high stakes than what is already is. This is in light of growing research showing that more and more young people are suffering anxiety.

What’s important here is that schools work to develop a clear message for their communities, which reinforces the message that schools are in the business of learning not coaching. Secondly, many students who have gone on to get high ATARs would not have pre-qualified in Year 9. Thirdly, the NAPLAN test is only a measure of literacy and numeracy and not the broader skill sets that young people have or that the HSC is designed to assess.

It’s not clear yet whether we’ll see increasing numbers of young people leaving school without a Higher School Certificate. There is certainly little current evidence that getting students to ‘pre-qualify’ will be an effective long-term strategy to address the literacy and numeracy levels among Australian students. There’s also the question of whether the certificate itself will even be relevant in workplaces of the future.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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