ATAR score losing relevance: dean

Emily AceSouth Western Times

Edith Cowan University South West dean Lyn Farrell wants a greater focus on pathway options to university as new research shows only 25 per cent of students are entering university based on an ATAR result.

The research conducted by the Mitchell Institute explored how different education sectors used the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank to admit students.

Institute director, Megan O’Connell, said the paper should prompt governments and educators to look at how young people were moving from school to further study and careers, and consider if the ATAR was still relevant.

“The question parents, students and teachers should be asking today is, if ATAR doesn’t matter for three quarters of undergraduate admissions, why is it treated as the most important outcome of 13 years of schooling?” she said.

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Ms Farrell said the ECU Bunbury campus had always provided the opportunity for people coming to university from pathways other than ATAR.

“As an educator, rather than as a dean of a university campus, my belief is what is important is matching the pathway to the student,” she said.

“We have a lot of focus on ATAR versus other pathways, but what is really important is successful learning.

“I would hope the decisions about pathways and appropriate learning is made on the basis of what the individual is ready for, interested in and has a passion for and that we stage their learning in a way that is appropriate for them – not about figures for ATAR.

“For some young people who are interested in ATAR subjects it is great to have them and it’s great to provide opportunities for them to excel, but the opportunity to excel and maintain a passion for learning is what we should be about.”

School Curriculum and Standards Authority board chairman Patrick Garnett said the completion of challenging courses in Year 11 and 12 provided students with a rigorous preparation for further studies, whether this is at universities or VET institutions.

“The ATAR is an important element for selection into university, particularly into highly competitive courses,” he said.

“It takes into account student achievement and the difficulty of the courses in which they are enrolled and enables students’ achievement to be placed on a single scale.

“While the ATAR is not a measure of all that a student is capable of, it is an efficient process and is both fair and equitable for all.”

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