Exam fail rate rises amid lit­er­acy, nu­mer­acy drop

Midwest Times - - NEWS - Josh Zim­mer­man

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.

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