There are significant changes to the 2019 HSC. NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA), is a statutory body set up in NSW which determines the curriculum and how we assess what we teach. It is responsible for setting the HSC. For some time there has been concern in Australia that relative to other OECD countries, Australian education standards are slipping. According to international testing in PISA, one fifth of 15 year olds do not meet proficient standard in Mathematics and English. Globally we are equal 10th in reading; equal 8th in scientific literacy and equal 17th in mathematical literacy.
NESA will be imposing a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy that all students will have to attain if they want an HSC. The minimum standard is the level of literacy and numeracy you need to function in everyday life, and it is set at a Band 8 NAPLAN in Year 9. The first students to be affected by this change will be Year 9 students 2017.
Secondly there will be changes to the English, Mathematics, Science and History syllabuses. English will be radically changed. The HSC will no longer have themes such as ‘journeys’ or ‘belonging’ and grammar and language will be taught to Year 12. As well there will be a greater focus on Asian Literature. In history there will be more emphasis on women’s movements and the environment in Australia. Proposed changes will be released in 2017 for feedback from teachers and will be implemented for Year 11 students in 2018. Science extension courses will be introduced and changes to existing extension courses will be made. These changes will be ready for Year 12 students in 2019. In other words, those in Year 9 will be affected.
There will also be changes to assessments. To reduce excessive stress, Year 11 assessments will be capped at three per course, and in Year 12, four per course. The aim is to give teachers the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback to students during the learning process rather than at the end of the learning. As well, there is a commitment from NESA to develop tougher in school assessments that reduce opportunities for plagiarism and cheating.
The HSC examinations will be redesigned and HSC questions will test application of knowledge and skills, focusing on in depth questions, and topics choices will be reduced.
There will also be a common scale for mathematics so that incentives to do easier mathematics courses to obtain a good ATAR are removed. Personal finance and statistics will be introduced at all levels of senior maths and common content will start in 2018 for year 11 students with a common scale in the HSC from 2019.
It has been argued that these reforms to improve the quality and usefulness of the HSC are long overdue, and a good start, but do not go far enough to meet the needs of the Australian workplace in the 21st century. It will be a very interesting time in education to see if N can indeed develop rigorous and challenging in school assessments which do not just assess what is taught in the HSC examination. Watch this space!