Is VCE fair?

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Is VCE fair?

Many individuals believe that VCE is not a fair system because of the scaling factor and the idea that you are compared to other students. In this article we will be exploring the system of VCE and discussing about whether or not it is fair.

VCE is based on scaling;
In the VCE you generally select 6 to 7 subjects. These subjects are generally broken down across 2 years, or four units. Unit 1&2 are year 11 subjects and all you need to do is obtain an S (satisfactory) in them. These subjects are not used in the calculation of the ATAR – it is only year 12 that will determine your ATAR score.

Now, not all VCE subjects are alike – some are “easier” and others are “harder”. For example take a student studying VCE Geography verse a student studying VCE Specialist Maths – obviously Specialist Maths is very challenging with topics such as vector calculus, imaginary numbers, differential equations and advanced trigonometry. Therefore to account for these differences, VCAA set up a scaling system which increases or decreases the study score of VCE students, based on their subjects.

Obviously many people have a problem with accepting this concept of scaling. After all how do you define what an “easy” verse “hard” subject is? Personally, I am a mathematics/science orientated person I am able to see that the VCE system is biased towards mathematics/science subjects.  I don’t think I could have studied subjects such as VCE art or VCE dance, because I have/had absolutely no inner talent for such subjects. What is unfortunate is that both of those subjects are scaled down.  This is something that I personally do not agree with, the notion of “scaling down” – what does this tell our young Australians? It tells them not to study dance or art (and many more subjects) because the VCE will penalise for it. How are individuals meant to follow their true calling when the system penalises them for taking up a certain VCE subject?

Maybe to make the system fairer, VCE scaling could be abolished – and universities could have their own entrance exams for particular faculties. For example if a student wants to study engineering at university, they would have a maths/science exam and if a student wants to study Arts they would have a humanitarian exam on history and other related subjects. In my view this would mean that VCE students would be studying subjects that are true to their interests, and therefore universities would not experience such a high drop-out and internal transfer rate. By abolishing scaling, VCE students would not be suffering in subjects that they are naturally unfit in, and overall this would have a positive impact on Victoria’s education system.

The VCE system can cause students to take up subjects they struggle in;

As a Science/Maths VCE tutor, I often see students forcing themselves to do subjects that they really struggle in. The reason they do this is to obtain “more scaling” rather than taking up subjects that they are naturally good at.

Sadly, this is the way that society is structured, but does Victoria really have to reinforce such a system? Most people do not follow their natural abilities for example many doctors would make brilliant accountants, many engineers would make brilliant musicians, many teachers would make brilliant nurses and the list continues…

Improving education is a big topic for many politicians – they always talk about increasing funding here and there. However funding would be much more effective if it was put into allowing Australian, in particular VCE students, to enter the sight TAFE or university degree that they are best suited to. Ultimately this would reduce the amount of HEC’s that the government needs to fund for tertiary students. By changing the system, it could potentially allow young Australians to make better choices about the courses that they study.

Is it fair to be compared to other students?

VCE is there so that you have the ability to decide whether you want to go to university or whether you would just prefer going to TAFE or work. Not all students are suitable to enter university and definitely a lot of individuals will choose to take other options after VCE. By comparing students to each other the ATAR or ENTER score is calculated. A score is a representation of how well you performed in the VCE compared to other students. An ATAR of 99.90 means that you did better than 99.9% of students, and only 0.05% of students did better than you. This ATAR score is calculated by taking the aggregate scores of each subject (after scaling) and to add it up. The highest aggregate will be the top student of the state, and everyone is compare to that student in relation to how they performed.

A lot of people claim that this type of system is unfair. I personally view it as a good way to motivate yourself. If you know that you will be competing with everyone in Year 12 for that ATAR score then you will find that you are always “on the ball” – given that you care about what you achieve within the year. It is the idea of being compared to others and allowing it to wreck your self-image that is most dangerous in this system. Remember that just because you are compared to other people, it doesn’t mean that you have to take it personally.

There were many geniuses and successful people in the past that were not the top students of their class. Albert Einstein, whom we consider “super-smart”  himself was not really that smart at school, in fact he even failed a few subjects. What made Albert Einstein so famous was his ability to think outside the box and use his imagination to produce new ideas. If you think about it, when you are learning Maths, Science or any other subject you are absorbing information that is already known. So the ATAR is a scale of how well you can recite information – it should not classify who you are. You may have a fantastic personality or a great imagination or tremendous courage, but will the ATAR score show you this? No, so don’t take the number personally and do not allow the ATAR to limit your true potential!

By separating yourself from the result, you are not allowing the system to affect you. No matter whether it is fair or unfair! A lot of students that obtain a low ATAR score begin to believe that they are inferior to others and that they will not achieve success! There are a large amount of entrepreneurs and business people that performed really badly at school but because they had the correct character, self-motivation and self-image they became self-made millionaires.
Your response to stepping “around” the VCE system.

Whether or not the VCE is fair, it is more important about what you do with the system – and your choices within the VCE. Will you choose to follow mainstream society? Or will you follow your natural talents and excel in them?

Rather than focusing on whether the VCE system is fair, concentrate on how you as an individual can follow your natural talents as best as possible. The VCE doesn’t force you to take up VCE Specialist Maths or VCE Latin, in fact, to give the VCAA some credit , they actually advice that you chose subjects that you are naturally good at.

If you find that you want to do VCE Physical Education or VCE Dance, you should just go for it. When you study subjects that you have are naturally good at, scaling should not really make a difference. For example Justin forced himself to do VCE specialist maths and obtained a 15/50 which scaled to 23/50. If Justin simply did P.E he would get a 38/50. In the end, Justin would obtain a better mark if he simply followed what really interested him

Sometimes you do have prerequisites which generally include VCE chemistry or VCE maths to get into a particular course. Be sure to take up those pre-requisites if you wish to enter a particular university degree – to maximise your ATAR score fill up the other subjects with VCE studies that are of interest to you, and do them as well as possible!

Universities are mostly maths/science orientated.

The VCAA is biased towards maths and science subjects, because that is essentially what universities desire. A university degree is challenging and takes commitment. Therefore universities prefer students that are studying highly academic subjects because it is a reflection on whether you can cope with that style of thinking.

Personally I believe that there is no real way of telling the commitment levels from the subject. I mean, you can be studying VCE textiles and have greater drive than the student that studies VCE chemistry. The subjects you choose are not a true reflection of any intrinsic characteristics of whether or not you will “cope” at university – however most universities view it in that way.

VCE is too much of a jump

I see this all the time well I tutor VCE students. There is a significant jump between year 10 and VCE. This includes a dramatic increase in workload and difficulty of the subject studied. For example; many of my students were doing very well in year 10 mathematics – some of the top A+ students began to struggle in year 11 Maths Methods. It is quite disheartening to obtain high 90% in your tests throughout year 10, and then sink to 50-60% in VCE Methods.

Why does this happen? A large portion of VCE Methods is application of the theory to an analysis question. This is a technique students are not confident with. Also the amount of content to learn is much more significant. Finally the speed needs to be as fast as possible, without affecting the accuracy. A lot of students are shocked when they enter VCE maths methods and cannot tolerate the stress.

How can you be prepared for this jump? An idea is to get accelerating tutoring or to self – study the material before you enter year 11. You will find that this can help you in growing confident in the subject before it turns into a problem.

Does it really matter if the system is fair?

In reality, although the VCE does have some flaws in it, it is not really that important about whether or not it is fair. It is more about how you, as a parent, teacher or student respond to it. Getting mad or blaming the system will not help you beat the VCE system. Here is a list of some constructive things you can do to make the VCE system work for you.

(1) Choose subjects that you like or can do well in.

If you know you can cope with VCE methods, VCE chemistry, VCE specialist maths than absolutely go for it – as long as you work hard and have the correct mind set and resources, you should succeed! However if you are struggling with year 10 maths and just want to do those subjects to get “scaled” seriously reconsider forcing yourself to take up difficult subjects. Even though the scaling may seem appealing, it is better to do an easier subject – work very hard in it and get a really high mark, rather than struggle with a subject and do poorly in it. Remember that scaling doesn’t equate to better mark.

(2) You are not your mark.

The resulting ATAR score that you obtain, should not reflect on who you are. The ATAR score and you are two completely different entities. Therefore even if you are compared to every other student in the VCE, it shouldn’t really matter on a personal level. Remember that the ATAR is not a reflection of your personal potential so never let it become an indication of what you can achieve in your life.

(3) Follow your natural talent.

If you find that you are excellent at art – then do art! Try to your best to follow the beat of your heart, it is it a challenge to really follow it when there are a lot of external factors that block your way and it does take courage, but it will ultimately improve the quality of your happiness and life!

Whether or not the VCE system is fair is a personal opinion – and you are entitled to your own ideas. Regardless of your beliefs they are ways to cope with the flaws ant pitfalls of the VCE system, which when executed can allow you to maximise your ATAR score.