Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Subject selections

I had a call from my dad today who asked, "I've been told all along that your stepbrother is university bound by the school but I have his subject selections for year 11 and they are all level 1 subjects."

When I dug a bit further he had been counselled into 1C English, 2C Maths and some non NCOS subjects. He had been given not recommended for 3A MAT and 3A MAS and told that he would "struggle" in 2A English, 2A Physics and 2A Chemistry.

I think many parents may be getting suggestions like this soon where schools make cautious subject selections to ensure that only the best students seek university entrance and along the way maximise league table results.

This move from encouraging students to seek excellence and challenge themselves towards seeking subjects that they will definitely do well in is contrary to the human spirit (especially when many of the non NCOS subjects lead nowhere). When we seek the improbable, all too often we succeed as we have underestimated our own capabilities. So many students that develop late are currently thrown on the TEE scrap heap without being given an opportunity.

Worse still, many parents still do not understand that level 1 subjects (in general) condemn their child to TAFE and not university - with ECU now saying that level 2 subjects are minimum for entry to university. Schools are effectively moving the university entry point to year 10 rather than pushing students through the year 11/12 learning curve/ litmus test where they have a go. Many TEE students succeed/many fail but all learn about themselves from the experience.

Somewhere we gave up on our youth.. before they turn 16 we drown their dreams in politically correct statements about students finding success and designing courses suitable to their needs. Shoot, we can't even devise an assessment programme systemically that can measure their ability (yes, I am talking about the failed levelling experiment). How can we judge with 100% accuracy who will improve enough to reach university? We are failing the 5-10% of students (or maybe even more if we count those that benefit from the effort) by not making them try to extend to university levels - especially those without environmental or behavioural issues. We have an obligation to encourage them to try, extend themselves and seek excellence.

It always amazes me what kids can do when given opportunities and are taught to value them.

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