31 March 2006

CBHS: Grades

Welcome to the next installment about public education in Australia. Today's topic: grades, grading systems, marking, and graduation. Let me first share this disclaimer: I don't have all this figured out yet. This is only an overview of what I know so far. More information can be found at the Board of Studies website.
The first thing to understand is that we work on a year-round school year. As a teacher (but not as a student), I was always intrigued by this system. I am looking forward to having time off in different seasons, not just summer. We have just begun our school year, but in two weeks, I already get a two week break. I think this keeps teachers and students fresher throughout the year. We have ten (or eleven) week terms, with two weeks in between, and six weeks for the summer holiday. Classes tend to be focused on one unit for an entire term (at least in HSIE and English), with two or three assessments each term. Assessments may by projects, presentations, tests, papers, or some other relatively large-scale body of work. Homework is assigned and checked, but not necessarily graded, or "marked", and do not necessarily figure into class grades. That's what the assessment tasks are for. When grade reports are turned in (which I have not had to do yet), they are not a 100-scale number figure, but a written assessment of the student's work and mastery of the material. The approach is much more holistic, and much more subjective. Assessments are individually marked using a more holistic method as well. Students are given outcomes to achieve, and these outcomes are assessed in their work.
School is compulsory only through Year 10. At the end of that year (actually, at the end of the third term), students take the school certificate test. If they pass, they receive their School Certificate. At this point, they have choices: continue on to Year 11 and 12, go to TAFE (think vocational training), or get a job. Students who continue their "senior" years do so in pursuit of a High School Certificate (HSC). This will allow them to go to university if they so choose. The HSC is a very intense program, requiring students to choose a subject area (a high school major?), complete major projects throughout the year, and take a series of tests at the end. Past tests can be found here. It is a very impressive program, and much more rigorous than a one day test like the SAT or ACT. Projects more closely a graduate thesis than anything I did in high school. Students may produce artwork or compose a song, conduct an advanced scientific experiment, complete intensive historical research, or choose any number of other advanced work. Add it all up, and I think students who graduate with their HSC should be very prepared for expectations at the university level. Maybe this is something that the US should look into. It wouldn't be easy (for students or teachers), but it would be a more accurate representation of readiness for college.

1 comment:

Billy B said...

Ok...I've worked in IT for 10 years now, and I didn't do so well on the software dev and IT tests! Those 11 and 12 year students have to know their stuff...