MECS Blog

VCE 2013

VCE 2013

Monday, 3 March 2014  | Dr Roger Fernando
In Victoria, VCE results are a big deal for schools. Private schools, in particular, can gain or lose students depending on their results. Figures that measure the average Australian Tertiary Entrance Rank (ATAR) and the percentage of students with ATARs above 90 are considered crucial. These figures appear on the websites of many prestigious schools and parents appear to be convinced that a school that produces excellent academic results must be a “good” school. Like any form of reductionism, ATAR results do not tell us everything about a school nor do they tell us everything about the student who gains a high ATAR. 

While at MECS we consider good ATAR results important, they are not the only measure of schooling success. We are equally concerned about how well our young people fit into their community, how well they would perform in a work place, what sort of partners they will be to a future spouse and a host of other roles. In short, how they are prepared for a full-orbed worship of God. Our other concern about VCE results is that they only seem to reward those who are academically gifted. When the VCE was first mooted back in 1985 in the “Blackburn Report”, we were pleased because the certificate was put forward as one that could be achieved by all students (not just the academically gifted) if they were prepared to work hard. However, our tertiary institutes have hijacked this noble vision so that today, rather than the gaining of the VCE certificate being seen as a success, it is the value of the ATAR that determines the success of a person’s VCE.

Given this preamble I am pleased to announce that last year’s cohort of students worked extremely hard and therefore gained our most pleasing set of results to date. If one is to measure academic success by the average ATAR, then, this year’s figure of 72.2 (an all-time high) is very impressive. This group excelled in terms of getting the best out of their ability. Almost 44% of our students obtained ATARs between 80 and 99.95 which again, is our best result in over a decade. Of the five students who gained ATARs over 90, two were boys and this continues the pattern we saw begin last year.

For some time now, we have worked towards - and gained - a really strong learning culture in the VCE years. This culture is nurtured right throughout the senior school but was boosted by a wonderfully organised Year 12 Camp, excellent attendance at VCE practice exams and the strong leadership shown by our Year 12 coordinator Sharon P. She did a wonderful job all year and is to be congratulated for this. We are also blessed by having had a series of strong and capable Year 12 coordinators since Martin introduced this position over five years ago.

Compared to the other private and government schools (Table 1) in the area, we have had again a “very good” year. Measures of “Rank Order” can vary depending on which variable is considered. On the basis of ‘Percentage of study scores of 40 and over’, we have dropped two places from last year. Countering this is the improvement in our ‘Median VCE Study Score’ where we have improved by one point thus putting us in equal second place. In truth, all of this simply reflects (mostly) the nature of the cohort of students enrolled in Year 12 as well as the character of our highly skilled and competent (whole) school teaching staff. Good VCE results have their genesis in the home and are nurtured by every single member of a school’s staff. The gaining of “good” results is not simply the domain of the Senior School staff but rather they belong to the whole school community. We must also acknowledge the significant contribution that Connie D and her team of learning assistants make to these results.

Continuing the positive trend, we are greatly encouraged by the vast majority of students who have given of their very best, who have grown in more ways than can be measured by an ATAR and who are well-equipped to serve God in the next stage of their lives. For these reasons, we need to continue to maintain our ‘open’ enrolment policy for those who would seek to study for their VCE irrespective of their academic ability. Given this policy, MECS will continue to carry the “cost” of lower average ATAR results if we are serious about a radical Christian education where each child is given the opportunity to undertake VCE. The VCE has been designed for all students not just for those who are seeking tertiary entry. Thus, students who are simply seeking the VCE certificate often don’t worry about the ATAR because their vocational path does not require this. Interestingly, there is no doubt that the establishment of Ranges TEC and thus the re-location of our VCAL program to that campus has had a positive impact on our educational climate.

We as senior school staff continue to work at building an environment that promotes a rigorous approach to the VCE which is seen as being part of a student’s whole hearted worship of God. We also pursue an approach to education which seeks to help each student to do his or her best without “spoon feeding”. Thus, continued success at tertiary level tends to be the norm for MECS students.

Dr Roger Fernando
VCE Coordinator
PS For further reading the following article: ‘Uni entry and the great ATAR myth’ was published in The Sydney Morning Herald - Link
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