‘Revolutionary’ plan to axe the ATAR

‘Revolutionary’ plan to axe the ATAR

A revolutionary plan to rethink Australia’s secondary education and move beyond the ATAR has been unveiled today by leading educators, academics and policy experts.

The paper, titled: ‘Beyond ATAR: a proposal for change’ was released this morning by the Australian Learning Lecture (ALL), a prestigious lecture series bringing big ideas in education to national attention.

The document puts forward three inter-locking recommendations to support the transition of young people from compulsory schooling to university and the workplace.

The first of the three proposals are to embrace the period when young people are aged 15-19 as a phase of education. This, the paper’s authors say, would enable all learners to develop their own pathway based on their skills, knowledge and know-how.

The paper also called on states and territories to design a Learner Profile as a common way of representing the full range of attainments that young people gather during their transition years. Similar approaches are already underway in Hong Kong and Harvard University, the paper noted.

The third proposal is for tertiary education providers to adopt “broader, more transparent entry criteria and pathways that align with learner’s aspirations and abilities.”

The paper’s authors pointed out that many providers have already established alternatives or additional entry requirements to the ATAR but said the lack of consistency makes it difficult for young people to understand what they need to do.

“People in education have had an appetite for change for a while but have not known what to do,” Ellen Koshland, founder of the Australian Learning Lecture, told The Educator.

“The ALL has worked with a wide cross section of players to propose a new way.”

Koshland said that until there is a new way, educators will “hold to the old”.

“It is easy to measure by exams, but it does not provide the wider set of information needed,” she said.

How principals can help
Koshland said school leaders are “critical” to the ALL’s initiative, adding that the Lecture has involved two highly experienced principals in its Working Parties.

“It is the role of principals to oversee schools where all their students develop their full potential and find success in life after school. Our three proposals will greatly help principals to do this,” Koshland said.

“First, to oversee a process of all students navigating the years of 15-19, helping them to know their interests and strengths, giving students and parents up to date information of the jobs that lie open to them.”

Koshland said this would help principals make parents aware of the reality today.  

“The Learner Profile will allow principals to help students demonstrate that they have the skills needed today – communication, collaboration, critical thinking. These build student agency and ownership of their pathways,” she said.

“Many companies are saying an ATAR score doesn’t tell us what we want to know. Many people cling to what they knew and experienced in education, but that will not serve our students well now.”

Beyond ATAR was written by Megan O’Connell (Honorary Senior Fellow, Melbourne Graduate School of Education), Dr Sandra Milligan (Director and Enterprise Professor, Assessment Research Centre, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne), and Tom Bentley (Executive Director, Policy and Impact, RMIT University).