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Thread: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

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    Administrator Trebla's Avatar
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    Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    For Year 12 students in NSW, their English mark accounts for at least 20 per cent of their ATAR. Mandating that so much of one’s ATAR must be sourced from one school subject introduces systematic bias against those who are disproportionately more likely to struggle with that subject.

    I was fortunate the Year 12 subject with which I struggled the most (and failed!) did not comprise 20 per cent of my university entry mark.

    As an educational psychologist specialising in student motivation, I am concerned about the effects of this policy on students’ inclination to work towards an ATAR they fear will be undermined, regardless of their efforts, by their English mark. Is this fair when other students’ motivation may be disproportionately boosted when they know their ATAR will be assisted by their English mark?.

    Some states and territories mandate inclusion of English in the ATAR whereas others do not, which means students in different states and territories may have different opportunities for university entrance.

    Students may also end up locked out of post-school pathways that have no direct relevance to their Year 12 English mark. For example, their mark may lower their ATAR to the point where they miss the cut-off for a STEM-specific university course.

    The texts I studied in Year 12 English taught me things about myself and the society in which I live that other school subjects could not. English occupies an important place in the Year 12 curriculum. I believe it should be mandatory to study it. But I am not sure it should account for a mandatory 20 per cent of a student’s ATAR.

    One option is to retain English as a mandatory subject, but to calculate an ATAR that is compromised solely of a student’s best subjects, regardless of what they are. For many students, this will include their English mark.

    The concern here is students will not try in English once they know it does not have to factor into their ATAR (a challenge well-familiar to all other subjects). Perhaps, then, a student’s Year 12 credential might also report on their satisfactory or unsatisfactory completion of English.

    Another option is to calculate an ATAR based on the student’s 10 best units, and to calculate a separate ATAR-E, that includes English. Then universities and employers can decide which measure they will use.

    The mandated amount that English factors into the ATAR could also be reduced; say, from 20 per cent to 10 per cent.

    As questions are raised about the utility and transparency of the ATAR and subject scaling , it may be time to also debate one of the major influences on a student’s score: the 20 per cent accounted for by his or her English mark.


    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/...03-p4zj7d.html

    Some interesting suggestions made here. What are your thoughts on English having to contribute to least 20% of the ATAR?
    Last edited by Trebla; 6 Jun 2018 at 12:00 AM.

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    I'd like it more if English was a compulsory 2 units for fundamental skills BUT rather than the current course it's an 'English requirements' course where you get marked as competent/not competent. Kind of hand in assessment based with just a single exam (not that much weighting but shows that you have the ability to be pretty consistent - to make sure people aren't just handing in tutor work. Alternatively you could do portfolio work + grammar/English skills topic tests.

    I'd also like to see more short answer questions, rather than 4 essays...

    Then so it's fair for people who are good at English, you can do 4 units of English (a course similar to the Advanced we have now that can count to your ATAR and the two current extensions) APART from the compulsory 2 of fundamental English.

    Then you have to do 8 units that count to your ATAR + English requirements (rather than 10 units).

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    i agree

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Honestly haven't used stuff from english a single time in uni so far and it didn't even help with the 2 reports we wrote. I'm 100% sure I won't need to analyse poetry in the future so I agree that it should not be compulsory since it's actually useless in my opinion at least. I guess you can say it helped my vocabulary SLIGHTLY but you can just learn that in your own time not as a subject that weighs 20% to your ATAR.
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Sure, English needs to count. I've never liked English in high school, but doesn't mean it isn't important. I didn't perform well as I did, but I did learn a lot. It's the issue with that English provides so much work within just two units, that people just give up and memorise the essays. And that defeats the point of English.

    In addition to the heavy workload, too much pressure on hsc students to perform well.

    I have another thought. What if we remove all scaling?
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    I also agree with you guys on this one, I believe either english and maths should be compulsory or neither of them should be.
    Although I enjoyed learning about the concepts and themes covered in english the exams are ridiculous.
    Writing 4 essays and memorising them (like most people do) defeats the whole point of learning and ruins the subject for everyone.

    The english syllabus needs a massive rework as this memorising component is a fundamental flaw in the subject (like many other HSC subjects) but unlike those other subjects there is very little application of this memorised content.
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Quote Originally Posted by Robbie M View Post
    I also agree with you guys on this one, I believe either english and maths should be compulsory or neither of them should be.
    Although I enjoyed learning about the concepts and themes covered in english the exams are ridiculous.
    Writing 4 essays and memorising them (like most people do) defeats the whole point of learning and ruins the subject for everyone.

    The english syllabus needs a massive rework as this memorising component is a fundamental flaw in the subject (like many other HSC subjects) but unlike those other subjects there is very little application of this memorised content.
    Totally agree!!


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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    I believe that English and Maths should be compulsory, or at least English (Like we have currently.)

    These faculties are the building blocks of most of society and the schools of thought that follow. English is crucial, and I don't mean learning how to analyse poems, but learning philosophical ideas and how thought has progressed overtime. Learning to shape an argument, articulate individual ideas and challenge yourself are crucial in my opinion. In addition, English typically covers classical and postmodern texts so we are able to gain an understanding of how language and context is shaped overtime.

    For maths, from my signature it is clear that I like it. Many fields in life have a foundation in complex problem solving and mathematical thought; Science, Engineering, Computing, Economics for direct mathematics, and Law, medicine, commerce etc for complex problem solving. Mathematics in the HSC teachers you to engage with unseen problems and provide solutions with the tools you have learnt. This is in essence how life works in most cases; You are presented with a problem you have or haven't encountered before, and you must devise a solution to that problem in a timely manner.

    And if you still hate either or both, at least be nice to your teachers
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Quote Originally Posted by si2136 View Post
    I have another thought. What if we remove all scaling?
    There'll be like zero incentive to do more advanced subjects if that ever happened lol
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    I think we are debating about the wrong thing. I think what we should be focusing on instead is making what we learn in English to be more useful in real life (instead of encouraging students to rote learn to get good marks) and ensuring that uni actually have other ways to weigh entrance (besides the ATAR-but to be honest, it already does-and I feel like the article has oversensationalised the impact of English on one's ability to gain entry into their desired course and the inequities it has resulted-considering also just how many unis offer bonus points schemes for all sorts of things and it was only revealed a year or two ago that almost no major unis in Australia actually have anywhere close to the minimum ATAR entry mark they say on their brochures advertising courses. I don't think we will make the most significant impact or generate the best educational outcomes by focusing on weighting of different subjects (because that is just shifting the focus from what is wrong fundamentally with what we educate instead)

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    english is a horrible subject

    basically teaches people how to write essays about nothing

    it's incredibly boring and nobody likes doing it, including the few people who actually like the subject

    it should be replaced with history writing instead

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    WA's method is quite good. English is a compulsory subject requiring minimum of Pass (to get the equiv of HSC Certificate). After that, for ATAR it's treated the same as other subjects i.e. if it's not among the highest number of subjects that count toward ATAR aggregate then it doesn't count, so doesn't affect your ATAR.
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    You would expect that a person being prepared for a professional career in the world; university; etc to have a strong grasp of the English vocabulary and language, would you not?

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Quote Originally Posted by A1P View Post
    WA's method is quite good. English is a compulsory subject requiring minimum of Pass (to get the equiv of HSC Certificate). After that, for ATAR it's treated the same as other subjects i.e. if it's not among the highest number of subjects that count toward ATAR aggregate then it doesn't count, so doesn't affect your ATAR.
    Damn why do we not have that LOL
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Quote Originally Posted by wannaspoon View Post
    You would expect that a person being prepared for a professional career in the world; university; etc to have a strong grasp of the English vocabulary and language, would you not?
    Would agree with that if Y12 English taught about technical/professional writing instead of studying century-old poems & novels.

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Quote Originally Posted by wannaspoon View Post
    You would expect that a person being prepared for a professional career in the world; university; etc to have a strong grasp of the English vocabulary and language, would you not?
    It does help with writing philosophical and legal essays at uni tbh, uni doesn't teach u how to write so you tend to rely on high school education for that, and marking feedback is minimal

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Maybe it would be better for all students to have reached minimum literacy requirements or sit something like IELTS than do standard/advanced English.

    My three cents

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    What I don't understand is why Advanced has to be extra af.

    I mean, 4 essays + 1 creative is A LOT to do for a 2 unit subject. (whereas in EE1, there's just one essay + one creative and if you go further down the line to EE2, one major + one reflection statement, which requires no proper "study" or rote-learning because there is NO EXAM ) I also find needing to argue a "thesis" or some complex argument strange and unnecessary, like why can't you just know the text, your quotes and analysis, and just answer the QUESTION given straight-up, no need for further convulsion.

    But I think, as I'm studying for my trials, what I don't get the most out of all these complaints running through my mind, is why it's so intense, and unnecessarily so. Four essays is just a lot.

    English should be compulsory, but can we just not have this weird way of writing essays and improve the content covered? Like, if you're gonna make students write four essays, then at least have better content. And General Math should be compulsory, because it teaches financial fundamentals that we will all end up using.
    Last edited by brbstudying; 11 Aug 2018 at 12:01 AM.
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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    I am a huge believer in eliminating the fact English has to count for 2 units of your 10 counted in the ATAR.

    English should be compulsory. I absolutely believe in that. It's important. But what I don't believe in is that students wanting to pursue STEM degrees in the future being locked out of the course - just because their ATAR suffered because English, their weakest subject - had to count.

    I know a few close friends who want to do STEM subjects in their tertiary education. But what do all of these people have in common? Their English marks are weak, and push down a possible ATAR while they are highly ranked in their other subjects (one of them tops physics, extension 1/2 maths, and chemistry). These people have to suffer because English degrades their ATAR. Same goes for me - except I want to study accounting where analysing old literature is bugger all needed.

    Who benefits from this? The jacks of all trades - who is naturally talented enough to be good at English, who is born with the genes to Band 6 English. Their ATAR gets hard carried - simply because they do well in English, whether or not their other subjects are good or bad.

    It's infuriating how I get top 3 in all of my other subjects but my ATAR will be dragged down because English is by far my weakest subject and I sit near the bottom in my cohort. It doesn't even matter if you do advanced or standard - both subjects are practically identical but the texts are negligibly easier in standard. The only way to get around this is by doing both EE1 and EE2 and acing them both but I've already got 12 units on my plate.

    The ATAR should be a representation of an individual's subjects they are strongest at, not their weakest. Students who are otherwise extremely strong in STEM subjects will suffer in terms of their ATAR because English is something they aren't good at, yet it has to count. Making English count in your ATAR holds a lot of people back from the courses that they want to do even though they have the skills to do that course and anything you learn in English is irrelevant in that course. Even worse when you have extremely harsh markers. I bid you luck getting past a mid B if your marker is from my school, because you need it.


    While you're there, make Maths compulsory as well. Rather than English being based off raw talent and nothing else, Maths is a subject that anyone can do if they put the hard work in. And unlike English, it actually teaches stuff you'll use in the future.

    I digress...
    Last edited by SirLaptop; 2 Sep 2018 at 6:25 PM.

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    My opinion here, I believe that English should not be mandatory, but instead any non-STEM subject.
    The Singapore A-Levels requires at least 1 each of STEM and non-STEM subjects.
    Tasmania does something similar too.
    Furthermore, many people including myself would be much happier if I could do Modern History or something else if that means they could drop English.
    Writing essays is important, but should not be English Literature-specific. I believe one would learn more via writing even Geography Essays over English Essays.

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Quote Originally Posted by SirLaptop View Post
    I am a huge believer in eliminating the fact English has to count for 2 units of your 10 counted in the ATAR.

    English should be compulsory. I absolutely believe in that. It's important. But what I don't believe in is that students wanting to pursue STEM degrees in the future being locked out of the course - just because their ATAR suffered because English, their weakest subject - had to count.

    I know a few close friends who want to do STEM subjects in their tertiary education. But what do all of these people have in common? Their English marks are weak, and push down a possible ATAR while they are highly ranked in their other subjects (one of them tops physics, extension 1/2 maths, and chemistry). These people have to suffer because English degrades their ATAR. Same goes for me - except I want to study accounting where analysing old literature is bugger all needed.

    Who benefits from this? The jacks of all trades - who is naturally talented enough to be good at English, who is born with the genes to Band 6 English. Their ATAR gets hard carried - simply because they do well in English, whether or not their other subjects

    It's infuriating how I get top 3 in all of my other subjects but my ATAR will be dragged down because English is by far my weakest subject and I sit near the bottom in my cohort. It doesn't even matter if you do advanced or standard - both subjects are practically identical but the texts are negligibly easier in standard. The only way to get around this is by doing both EE1 and EE2 and acing them both but I've already got 12 units on my plate.

    The ATAR should be a representation of an individual's subjects they are strongest at, not their weakest. Students who are otherwise extremely strong in STEM subjects will suffer in terms of their ATAR because English is something they aren't good at, yet it has to count. Making English count in your ATAR holds a lot of people back from the courses that they want to do even though they have the skills to do that course and anything you learn in English is irrelevant in that course. Even worse when you have extremely harsh markers. I bid you luck getting past a mid B if your marker is from my school, because you need it.


    While you're there, make Maths compulsory as well. Rather than English being based off raw talent and nothing else, Maths is a subject that anyone can do if they put the hard work in. And unlike English, it actually teaches stuff you'll use in the future.

    I digress...
    I agree with u for the most part. (Soz for doing it in 2 separate posts lol)

    More of my opinions here tho...

    And yes, maths should be compulsory, specifically what we currently call 2-Unit or Advanced Maths should be mandated.
    Australians are suffering from a lack of numeracy, and the Australian economy cannot grow if this action is not taken.
    Literacy rate is not an issue, and literature doesn't help (much) with literacy
    Of course, screw counting it into atar tho. Just pass that s*** and it's fine tbh...

    Edit:

    Furthermore, HSC cannot be passed without basic literacy anyway as all courses are taught AND examined in engllish.
    If you can already speak English, then learning another language is 50 times more productive. Idiots these days think knowing English is enough, but guess what? IT IS NOT!
    Last edited by Leon_V3; 1 Sep 2018 at 8:30 PM.

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    Re: Including English in every ATAR is unfair to students with other strengths

    Quote Originally Posted by Leon_V3 View Post
    I agree with u for the most part. (Soz for doing it in 2 separate posts lol)

    More of my opinions here tho...

    And yes, maths should be compulsory, specifically what we currently call 2-Unit or Advanced Maths should be mandated.
    Australians are suffering from a lack of numeracy, and the Australian economy cannot grow if this action is not taken.
    Literacy rate is not an issue, and literature doesn't help (much) with literacy
    Of course, screw counting it into atar tho. Just pass that s*** and it's fine tbh...

    Edit:

    Furthermore, HSC cannot be passed without basic literacy anyway as all courses are taught AND examined in engllish.
    If you can already speak English, then learning another language is 50 times more productive. Idiots these days think knowing English is enough, but guess what? IT IS NOT!
    Do you have evidence of this?

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