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New Literacy and Numeracy Tests to be added to the VCE

Posted on 12 November 2018
New Literacy and Numeracy Tests to be added to the VCE
Every Victorian high school student is to be tested against new literacy and numeracy standards under the biggest VCE overhaul in decades.

The changes, to be unveiled by the Andrews government today as tens of thousands of students prepare to sit their VCE exams, follow concerns that too many students are graduating with dismal reading, writing and maths skills.

But there are fears the move could lead to increased pressure and higher dropout rates among students who don't like exams.

From 2021, students taking the certificate and its vocational alternative, VCAL, are to receive a grade of "not demonstrated", "demonstrated" or "highly demonstrated" against reading, writing and numeracy. These assessments will be recorded in their statement of results, which is scrutinised by employers and universities.

The government said students would be assessed against the new standards from year 11, when they sit a revamped General  Achievement Test, which is commonly known as the GAT.

State Education Minister James Merlino said Victoria had been the only state that did not explicitly include, or plan to include, literacy and numeracy standards in its senior secondary reporting.

"This is a change that has been called for by employers for some time, and with this additional support we will give every student the opportunity to be job ready," he said.

Labor is also pledging to spend $187 million employing 700 expert teachers over the next four years, to provide at least two hours of weekly tutoring to students at risk of not meeting the standards.

They would target children who perform below the national minimum standards in years 7 and 9 NAPLAN testing.

"This is the single biggest investment in individualised support in the state's history," Mr Merlino said.

Although the announcements have been made a month out from the state election, Labor says work is already taking place on the new standards and money has been budgeted for the teaching experts.

The changes make the GAT, which most VCE students currently do not study for, much more high stakes. And for the first time, VCAL and unscored VCE students who currently do not sit exams will have to sit the GAT.

Students who sit the test in year 11 can repeat it in year 12 if they are unhappy with their results.

The overhaul was recommended by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, after Mr Merlino asked it to investigate changes to the VCE and VCAL.

Sue Bell, president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said some principals were concerned the changes could lead to students dropping out because they don't like exams. "Some students have chosen the VCAL pathway because they do not like exams, and we do not want them dropping out because there is an exam," she said. But she said most principals saw the benefit of embedding literacy and numeracy standards in the curriculum.

"Research shows that if you raise expectations, students will lift their standards," she said.

Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce executive director Geoff Gwilym welcomed the changes, saying he was often "appalled" by the literacy and numeracy skills of school leavers.

Some were unable to read safety instructions, manuals and information on diagnostic machinery used to fix cars, he said.

"It means we have to reject a lot of apprentices because they don't have the skills to go into the industry and work effectively. Do you really want someone fixing the brakes on your car when they can't read?" He said his organisation retested every school leaver vying for an automotive apprenticeship.

"We don't take VCE or VCAL as a measure of someone's capability," he said. "It is not reliable." The introduction of minimum standards for high school students has been controversial in NSW and Western Australia.

Although they have boosted NAPLAN results, they have been linked to higher dropout rates and increased anxiety. But unlike those states, Victorian students would still receive their year 12 certificate whether they have met the standards or not.

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper also lamented the poor literacy and numeracy skills of school leavers.

"People need to be numerate and literate to make themselves valuable employees, particularly in a time of digitisation," he said.

It is not known how the GAT is to be revamped. The test is currently sat by VCE students completing a unit 3 and 4 subject and is used to ensure school-based assessments have been accurately marked.

In NSW, where a similar scheme has been introduced, students are assessed on whether they have the skills for everyday tasks such as following safety instructions in equipment manuals, understanding phone plans, writing a job application and creating a weekly budget.


Age, Melbourne  by Henrietta Cook
22 Oct 2018

Tags: curriculum Government



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