New pathways to ‘post school’ required.

I recently  spoke with Colin Klupiec from Learn Fast in my capacity as the newly appointed Principal Leader at St Luke’s, Marsden Park. Colin’s professionalism, deep knowledge of Australian education and strong desire for a ‘new paradigm for learning’, meant that I enjoyed our time discussing the future of education in Australia within the one local context of St Luke’s.

St Luke’s is a (soon to be established) ‘next generation’ learning community. As part of the conversation Colin and I discussed ways to blur the finish line of schooling. Currently, that finish line is when the vast majority of young people conclude their formal education at the end of Year 12, around mid-December each year. In NSW, the checkered flag waves frantically for 24 hours with the release of HSC results followed by the release of the ATAR* the next day.

ATARs have increasingly become less meaningful as expressed in a recent article ‘Not in our national interest’: Universities slammed over ATAR leniency’ by Eryk Bagshaw.  Universities have compromised tertiary entry standards in pursuit of growing enrolments. Increasing ATAR offer rates below 50 has been one of many approaches.

ATARs below 50

Whilst the number of university degrees is increasing, the value of a university degree is in decline. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, of bachelor degree graduates who were available for full-time employment in 2000, 83.6 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees in 1999. Since then, the trend has been….

  • in 2005, 80.9 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.
  • in 2010,  76.2 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.
  • In 2015,  68.8 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.

It may well be that there are now more university degrees for less jobs or it may be that employers are looking further afield than the traditional degrees as evidenced by FYA’s most recent report. Employers in Australia are increasingly advertising for people who exhibit the ‘New Basics’ of Digital Literacy, Critical Thinking, Creativity and Problem Solving.

Enterpise Skills

Reading between the lines of the report, and with reference to Jim Bright’s article below, it appears employers may be unsure of how HSC results or  an ATAR number assists an employer to ascertain a prospective employee’s capability in these areas.

SMH Article

In the interests of best preparing our students for the future which awaits them, it is now time to look at more flexible post school pathways other than just the HSC and ATARs. These pathways would see students:

  • make links with industry by showing their work through their online presence, one which connects with experts across the world; OR,
  • create their own start up business in Year 8, 9 or 10 (possibly after many failed attempts) by asking them the question, “What problem do you want to solve?”; OR,
  • assisted by their wider learning community (not just school) to develop the skills for the surprising jobs of today.

I welcome your thoughts.


* The ATAR is The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia. It was gradually introduced during 2009 and 2010 to replace the Universities Admission Index, Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank and Tertiary Entrance Rank.





13 thoughts on “New pathways to ‘post school’ required.

  1. Well done Greg – another great article. Very significant since you are about to start a new school. A great opportunity to re-educate the parents (and staff) about how we should be preparing our students for, rather than what their parents had done to them!
    A great chance to use electronic portfolios – another way students can display what they learn’t and how they have learn’t – and more importantly how they have used that knowledge to create or solve a problem.
    School should be an opportunity for these knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to be discovered and developed. A school I spent a few hours in Melbourne last week – who does this well is Templestowe College under the courageous leadership of Peter Hutton.

  2. So interesting, thanks Greg. As recently as 25 years ago when I left school, the options were still all so traditional, even more so for girls. It is crazy and exciting and fascinating to see what is evolving with the job market, and even more exciting to think about how schools can prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet! Thanks for your blog – good food for thought.

  3. It is refreshing to see a Principal (congratulations) articulate what Careers Advisors have known for many years, and yet they remain ‘voiceless’ in the planning of most schools. It is important to be reminded of what has led to this increase in the uni focus: Government initiative to increase the school leaving age and to improve Australia’s OECD rankings. What has not been understood and embraced by schools is the pathways concept of learning and environments that require ‘timetables’ to be flexible and Leaders that are visionary and understand current trends in education and the global economy. Your new community of learners should be excited by your appointment.

  4. First – congratulations, what a wonderful adventure you will have at St Lukes!
    Second – thanks for the blog and thoughts…it is interesting. As a mother, I have found a huge hole post HSC with my eldest (20) still wandering around the forest trying to find his way, my second (19) finding University learning so very different and my third (17) looking at the HSC tunnel with fear but with resignation – so it is also something I’ve been considering as a parent.
    This week I was fortunate to be at EduTech and saw a presentation from Viv White CEO of Big Picture ( At first look this program appears for those from SES positions of challenge, however when I reflected, it is something that should be there for all our Ss – we have many square pegs in all schools who are just going through the motions as there is little alternative…I wonder if there is something here to work on?

    Best of luck – keep the blogs coming 🙂


  5. Thanks for the post Greg. It was interesting several months ago when one VC (I think of Deakin Uni?) announced that the ATAR was no longer a valid indication of students’ capabilities in terms of achievement at university. Not one other VC or leading academic publicly refuted the idea.

    If universities no longer value the ATAR, what future does it have?

    If the trends for having more students sit the HSC in NSW is for them to gain an ATAR to get into uni, what future does the HSC have?

    If the HSC is no longer as important as a means to gain entry into university or other study, how might that affect all other curriculum? The HSC – let’s face it – is based on the premise that all students will move as a cohort to undertake those high pressure and content heavy subjects in Year 11 and 12.

    I wonder from where the disruption will come:
    – from students who stop seeing (some) schools as relevant
    – from universities who stop seeing tools like the ATAR and even the HSC as relevant
    – from policy makers who see opportunities to differentiate pathways into further study (this is already happening of course – think accelerated subjects and Pathways – we just don’t talk about it much)
    – from parents and the wider community who see the changes happening to industries and work and want a different experience for their children
    – from researchers who at times struggle to predict what might happen because all the evidence comes from decades that are no longer comparable to today

    Interesting times! Thanks again for writing and best of luck in the new role.

  6. As someone currently 2200 words deep into a 3000 word essay, I fully agree that learning is about experience not essays. I’d love to talk more about it Greg, but this essay is keeping me off the golf course, so I’ve got to sit here and regurgitate other peoples ideas and words so that I can get that useless piece of paper from my University!! Can you think about knocking on their door to make some changes as well???!!

  7. An interesting post indeed.
    With a lot of my teacher colleagues in the midst of post grad studies we often engage in meaningful, thought provoking conversation about whatever task it is that they have looming in front of them at the time. The conversation is rich and inspiring… and then they go away and ‘write’ it. So here is my point… converse rather than write. Imagine an ‘assessment’ where students could choose a topic, do some research and pre-reading, and then sit in groups of three or more and engage in conversation about their topic.
    When our young adults apply for jobs surely the interview gives more insight than anything written on a piece of paper, including a school report. Just as a written reference has become obsolete so too have written tasks lost their purpose or meaningfulness as an indicator of ability.
    We encourage our Year 7 students to ‘show’, not ‘tell’. Surely this mantra is relevant all the way through?

  8. An interesting and timely post indeed!
    Many of my teacher colleagues are in the midst of post-grad studies and we often engage in deep reflective conversation around whatever task it is that they are focused on – then they go away and write it up to submit. But for those of us who are not studying but have been part of that conversation there has also been a learning…
    Imagine if we allowed students to choose a topic/study, do some research and reading, then sit down with three or four other students and just engage in conversation around this topic as their ‘assessment’. Imagine the rich learning that would happen?
    When we eventually join the workforce we make a meaningful contribution through seeing, observing, reflection and the sharing of ideas, no matter the industry. Where is it that we are required to regurgitate old ideas in a particular written form to progress at work?
    We encourage our Year 7 students to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ – surely this is also relevant for our school leavers, the next generation? Show us what you know, show us what you can do, show us, and let us learn alongside of you.

  9. Interesting article Greg. I find the stats about digital literacy especially interesting when we have some educators thinking the way to help students learn is to get rid of technology (one wonders what world they think they are preparing students for??)
    The ATAR has become a game and needs to be reassessed as a tool to predict student’s success at university. It will be interesting to see how BOSTES approaches assessment changes over the next few years.

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