David Cross, CEO of Blueprint Institute, recently published a thought-provoking opinion piece in the SMH* on the HSC. Titled – Stop saying the HSC doesn’t matter. It does. – the article delves into the impact of the plethora of voices who proclaim that “the HSC does not matter.” This sentiment is expressed frequently at this time of the year, often by well-intentioned supporters of HSC students who see the impact of the pressure this high-stakes examination has on students.
There is no doubt the HSC is stressful, but to say it doesn’t matter negates the hard work students have put into the years leading up to this point. To them, it matters a lot. Perhaps it would be more prudent to unpack why it matters. At this point, it’s important to separate the HSC and the ATAR. The ATAR is a tool used by universities to allocate places. I think we all agree it is a flawed process, but it has no currency beyond this. And we know categorically that an ATAR does not limit a student’s ambition to pursue further studies. If they are passionate and persistent, they can achieve their post-school goals, irrespective of their ATAR.
The HSC is a measure of student performance in their subjects. It is a summative assessment that reflects their level of achievement of the outcomes and is underpinned by many years of diligence and discipline, engagement in learning and the development of habits and routines, skills and competencies that have prepared them for the HSC and life beyond school. In supporting our young people to be assessment capable, we set them up to be life-long learners and productive members of society where they will inevitably encounter a range of performance assessments.
The HSC also matters for schools. It provides crucial data for us to use to evaluate our knowledge of the syllabus and the quality of teaching and learning. Every year, schools devote an extensive amount of time to the analysis of HSC data, reviewing programmes to ensure continuous growth and improvement in student achievement.
The HSC is an internationally recognised credential that represents more than a mark. It is part of a learning process that teaches students how to set their goals, develop the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve them, build relationships with their peers and teachers, build the capacity for self-regulation, self-reflection and self-efficacy. These global competencies, which are fundamental to wellbeing and life-long success, help students to shape their own outstanding futures. This is why the HSC matters.
The HSC does matter – understanding why it matters will help to shape the conversations we have with young people about the HSC. It is an opportunity to remind them of the strengths they’ve harnessed, the qualities they’ve demonstrated and the growth they’ve experienced. Telling students that it doesn’t matter is akin to telling them they’ve wasted their time applying themselves to achieve their goals this year. Let’s see the HSC in a broader context, encourage students to explore what it means to them and why it matters, and congratulate them on completing this challenge. It will serve them well as they step out into the world beyond school.
Why the HSC matters was summed up well by NGS teacher, Mrs Julie Owers, in a recent Chapel service in her prayer for Year 12, “These exams serve as the culmination of years of deliberate practice, grit, and hard work. We have observed Year 12 cultivate their character strengths as they have travelled on their journey this year, offering us all a positive model for how to meaningfully contribute to something larger than the individual. May Year 12 enter each exam with the confidence and self-belief to be the best they can be.”
By Lisa Peterson
Director of Learning and Teaching