Exam fail rate rises amid literacy, numeracy drop
More than 2150 students left school last year with nothing to show in the way of credentials for their secondary education — almost one in 10 of the 24,332 eligible Year 12s.
The percentage of students leaving Year 12 with a Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) dropped to 91.1 per cent in 2017, the worst on record and down slightly from 91.9 per cent in 2016.
In 2011, 97.4 per cent of Year 12 students left school with a WACE but more rigorous standards were introduced in 2016 in an effort to raise the status of the qualification nationally.
The more rigorous requirement led to an even more dramatic slide for indigenous students, with WACE rates plunging from 93.1 per cent in 2012 to 69.4 per cent last year.
Most of those students are failing because they do not possess the minimum acceptable reading, writing and maths skills of a Year 9 student.
Students must achieve a minimum number of “C grades” and complete Certificate II or higher if not enrolled in four or more ATAR courses.
The Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment ( OLNA) was also brought in to ensure students could demonstrate a minimum reading, writing and maths standard. Any student who fails to pass their Year 9 NAPLAN testing must undertake OLNA testing every six months in Years 10, 11 and 12 until they do. Those who fail to pass the OLNA before they finish Year 12 are disqualified from obtaining a WACE.
School Curriculum and Standards executive director Allan Blagaich said the decline in WACE was unsurprising given the higher standards.
“Improving the standards of students graduating Year 12 mean they are better prepared for whatever pathway they choose to take when leaving school — that’s not a concern, that’s a good thing,” he said.
“Not all students aspire to achieve a WACE — while it is desirable, it is not a requirement to graduate secondary schooling. Students without a WACE can still follow a range of pathways after graduation, including enrolling in TAFE or training, gaining employment and enrolling in an enabling course at university.”
The number of public school students obtaining a WACE by completing a VET (Vocational Education and Training) Certificate II or higher, sometimes seen as an easier path, jumped from 10,434 to 10,889 — more than double the number that pursue an ATAR.
The secondary graduation rate in public schools — the percentage of Year 8 student who go on to a WACE, rose from 63.1 per cent in 2016 to 65.5 per cent last year.
It is still well below that 73 per cent target set by the WA Education Department.