Teachers & Students – Is the AST past it?

Joe Canberran 3 October 2007 33

James Patmore from NowUC has written this opinion piece questioning the fairness of the AST (ACT Scaling Test) as a means of assessing students finishing Year 12.

He makes several points including that we and Queensland are the only jurisdictions not to sit external exams and that “that a school’s General Achievement (GA) score in the AST is used to standardise students results, not the individual’s AST score, meaning students are relying on the performance of their peers to obtain successful results, which in an unfair form of assessment”.

The whole article is worth a read but I was wondering what, if anything, Canberra’s teaching and student community thinks of both the current system and of any possible improvements.

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33 Responses to Teachers & Students – Is the AST past it?
novice99 novice99 4:19 pm 09 Oct 07

It is good to have a variety of educational systems in place – Australia is a place of diversity. The last thing to be striving for is total bland uniformity across all states. Ugh. We should be proud that we have educational choices available. There are pros and cons to each system, but they all work in the end. Let’s not become narrow in our domain and accept difference.

nyssa76 nyssa76 3:33 pm 06 Oct 07

VicePope, I don’t know. I’ve never seen it.

I’m too busy programming for next term! (5 mins break from Australian Political History and Haunted Canberra.

el, hubby agrees with you. He left at the end of Yr 10, went into the navy, got a trade and is promoted when he comes up for one.

I finished Yr 12, went to Uni, went to Uni again, went for a third time (Masters) and I teach.

We’re both ‘academic’ (I dread to say intelligent as it is an abused word) and it made no difference whether we finished Yr 10/12 or not as we earn roughly the same amount of money – when he’s not at sea (obviously he gets more then).

el ......VNBerlinaV8 el ......VNBerlinaV8 12:51 pm 06 Oct 07

I agree entirely with what Danman said – I’m in a fairly similar situ to him, but left school without even getting my Year 12.

VicePope VicePope 11:49 am 06 Oct 07

It’s as silly as it is possible to be that Oz, with a population of c21m, has eight year 12 systems (plus whatever they do on Norfolk, Christmas and Cocos and the odd anomaly like the International Baccalaureate).

My best guess would be to look at all of them and see who wins – eg rich over poor, girls over boys. An earlier post referred to research suggesting independent school students tended to be overmarked at school, meaning that they performed worse in tertiary education than someone with the same tertiary score from the general system. If that’s true (and if one accepts that the purpose of academic year 12 assessment is entry into tertiary education), perhaps it’s something that can be adjusted. Then try to work out how to get rid of the inherent unfairnesses in any of the existing systems.

A difficult issue is distinguishing between the effects of errors in system design (that a particular system can never produce a fair result) and distortions produced by human intervention. (Does anyone else suspect some schools are better at distorting AST results than they are at teaching? I am pretty confident distortion happened in the NSW HSC system – one school I know of in the late 1970’s, when the max score was 500, had pretty well no-one in the 300-400 range where the bell curve said there should be a majority. It was medicine or the pits. Stories of leaked exam questions and cooperative marking were around, although I have not seen proof).

Some people (let’s call them, typically, girls) do really well with continuous assessment. Other people (perhaps we could call them boys) do well at heavy exams in a short time. Give people a choice about what might maximise their scores, or make everyone do both and pick the best, rather than the average.

ps – Nyssa. Is Summer Heights High a doco?

Maelinar Maelinar 12:48 pm 04 Oct 07

No, we want to turn that one back off. More jobs for the Chinese, and less greenhouse gasses.

Thumper Thumper 12:46 pm 04 Oct 07

Bring back the industrial revolution…

Absent Diane Absent Diane 12:44 pm 04 Oct 07

education and intelligence often seem to have little in common either.

Maelinar Maelinar 12:40 pm 04 Oct 07

Bring back the cane, and CMT, and Gormsby.

Danman Danman 11:58 am 04 Oct 07

scuse my grammar – quick typing @ work ($%$&*#&@!!!)

Danman Danman 11:57 am 04 Oct 07

Snahon, yes, I agree – but when I was in school there was a culture of if you had a bad TER you will amount to nothing in society.

I guess the point of my post was to hilight that even though you may not do well in school (as many do not) you woll still thrive in teh real world.

There so so much to be learnt after school – and that fact is not pushed enough in colleges.

They made me feel that decisions that I made back then would have lifelong rasmifications when in reality there are heaps of options for tertiary education and life choice – the most important thing I have gained ex school was life experience – with thatand some enthusiasm and drive you can get anywhere – Schools (i feel) concentrate their efforts on stressing the decisions you make then and there which is a great deal of stress for a 17 year old to take on….

I guess what I am saying is that decisions and achievements made in college need not lay teh foundation for future achievemnts – for both ends of teh scale – for example – I knew a stoner in college who is now working for a legal firm and to the same degree I knew of a high academic achiever student in school who I last saw peddling his wares from beneath his child in a pram in Garema…

Snahons_scv6_berlina Snahons_scv6_berlina 11:35 am 04 Oct 07


Good for you 🙂 but bare in mind that your TER in no way reflects your potential for earning capacity. Your level of education and ability to earn money are in no way related.

Danman Danman 11:12 am 04 Oct 07

When I was in College circa 1995 we had the TER (tertiary Entrance Rank).

My mother encouraged me to go for it (just in case I wanted to go to uni pfft) and my school discouraged it due to my straight C marks.

needless to say I only scored 22.45 out of 100 (The hallmark of my tertiary education!!) – Im now on plus 55k a year working for “The Man”…. make of that 22.45 what you will

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt 9:58 am 04 Oct 07

Bugger me. Thanks for the advice. It kinda makes sense, though: how one earth would I have time to take an interest in my children when I have to whinge and bitch and moan all day (about living in the Australian city with the best roads, nicest green areas and highest average income)…

Snahons_scv6_berlina Snahons_scv6_berlina 9:40 am 04 Oct 07

no no no VY, teachers are responsible for raising our children these days not us get with the programme.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt 8:23 am 04 Oct 07

J Dawg, the HSC is not one massive set of exams, at least it wasn’t when I did it. You have the massive set of exams at end of year 9, end of year 10 (for the SC), end of year 11, mid year 12, 3rd quarter year 12 and end year 12. On top of this you have in class examinations. The point I was making was that having to undergo this level of examination ensures that students who actually give a crap get substantial experience in exam technique.

As for GnT’s comment above, I don’t think modern education prepares anyone particularly well for life: that’s what parents are supposed to do.

nyssa76 nyssa76 5:50 pm 03 Oct 07

I think with the ACT system you actually learn how to write essays.

I learnt to do them in Yr 9 – with a strategy called ‘bundling’.

I think it’s more the quality of the teacher/class and also the student’s commitment to their educaiton, prior to Uni, than the actually HSC/Non-HSC debate.

GnT GnT 5:48 pm 03 Oct 07

This discussion seems to have become “Which system prepares students better for uni”. How about “Which system prepares students better for life”? Or “Which system of obtaining a score more acurately reflects how much the student has learnt (as in deep understanding) rather than how much they can recall and regurgitate”?

J Dawg J Dawg 4:38 pm 03 Oct 07

What some people appear not to realise is that just because students don’t do the HSC it doesn’t mean they don’t do exams.

Instead of one massive set of exams (HSC), here in the ACT students have four sets of exams with equal importance. Plus the AST, which is a set of exams (although different to subject exams).
In regards to stress, there are people who always stress over exams, no matter how small. The difference is instead of those people stressing once (over HSC), they stress 5 times (4 semesters + AST).

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt 4:16 pm 03 Oct 07

I think it depends on what you are studying. For example, in engineering your own opinion doesn’t typically carry much weight. The essay writing is an interesting one, too. When I was in year 9 (a while ago now) we had a teacher straight out of uni who made it her mission to teach us to write essays – one each week for most of the year. For students who don’t get that, essay writing can indeed be difficult. That said, I think I wrote about 2 essays in my entire engineering degree!

There’s always going to be advantages and disadvantages to each approach. I still think the exam technique and practice of the HSC was incredibly helpful, but maybe that’s just me.

As for Woody’s question, well who can tell? Depends on how you define ‘better’. I’d suggest it’s not really possible to compare scores across different courses to get any meaningful result, and many courses may not have anough NSW students to get meaningful comparisons. I suspect, though, that if you can survive the HSC (yep, it’s stressful!), that you can survive most of what uni dishes out.

b2 b2 2:44 pm 03 Oct 07

from someone that went through the ACT system recently and is now enjoying the high life at UC.
I think with the ACT system you actually learn how to write essays, I’ve noticed that a lot of the non-ACT students don’t know how to write an essay properly, and so we are have had lectures about simple essay writing. By the time you start uni, you should really have that down pat.

In term’s of the big HSC style exam, I don’t think there is any advantage. In any case where I’ve studied hard for a one off exam, I have forgotten most of it by the next week. In most cases I don’t think it is an efficient way to learn, instead of you forming your own opinion, it is about remembering exact details and what not.

I agree that the AST isn’t perfect, and I was under the impression that they were changing the way it was structured so that it was only your result that influenced your mark (compared to the result of the school).

and with what VYBerlina said, I would have thought if you were studying engineering you would know that it wouldn’t be easy. And you would have had to complete some pretty hard maths courses at school, which in my case, had pretty big exams at the end.

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