VicSRC response to proposed VCE review

The VCE system was first trialled in 1987 when Australian unemployment was low, wages were high and fewer than four hundred thousand students were enrolled in higher education according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Come forward thirty years, they record more than three times as many students studying at the tertiary level and their experience of employment is shifting, becoming less secure and more changeable.
Giving students a strong voice in their education helps prepare them for today’s rapidly changing world and the Victorian Student Representative Council is dedicated to making sure student’s voices are heard loud and clear. We look forward to elevating student voices in consultation with the Andrews Government around the proposed review of the VCE.
One of the goals set by Victorian students for 2018 is for the VicSRC to advocate for all students to have more opportunities to learn basic real life skills at school. We believe that these skills are not limited to numeracy and literacy but run the gamut from basic first aid skills, an understanding of domestic finances and healthy living to critical thinking skills, flexibility and resilience.
But VCE is not the time to begin teaching and testing for these skills. As year 12 VicSRC Executive Alyssa Shannon says “Placement and implementation of this in VCE is too late – these skills should be worked on much earlier in a student’s education. You know, there is a massive jump between younger high school year levels and the standard of VCE and some students can really struggle with this.” VicSRC are keen to see real world skills incorporated from an early age, matching everyday lessons with clear purpose and using feedback from students to guide further learning. Students are best engaged when they’re involved in shaping their learning, motivated by their own agency.
Independent learning skills are key to outfitting students with the best possible skillset for a future they choose. Whether a student seeks employment directly after school or enters vocational or tertiary education, their long-term prospects are increasingly determined by their resilience, self-motivation and ability to direct their ongoing learning in the fast-paced, technological world of modern work.
A focus on these all-encompassing, practical skills is also key to including disengaged or at risk students, who are likely to be discouraged by further standardised testing. As Mia Sherman, year 11 VicSRC Executive member, recently said in an ABC news story “I think it will be a burden having to put another test on the students, I think they are already at risk of being left behind by the VCE and dropping out. It potentially places another barrier between them and continuing.” A student-centred approach can provide valuable avenues for outreach to those traditionally marginalised and excluded by score-focused systems.
We sincerely hope the Andrews Government will include a diverse population of students in their consultations on any review or proposed changes to the VCE. Together students, teachers, the government and the community can create an active learning community for the future.