Children born today will face major global challenges, needing to urgently address environmental issues, manage digital disruptions and social and ethical challenges associated with the growth of artificial intelligence. Skills in identifying and solving programs will be crucial, and skills in human relations will be a premium.

Across Australia, education reviews are being undertaken to update the curriculum or qualifications frameworks to help the Australian education system evolve to meet the changing needs of learners. They all have the same basic premise – what changes do we need to make to enable our education system to better prepare children and young people for future challenges? 

The goals of our education system should be to instil all learners with the confidence and capabilities to thrive as citizens and community members, as well as engaged, resilient workers and entrepreneurs.

Currently, our education system has narrow measures of success – namely good NAPLAN scores and a high ATAR, both of which are not supporting all young people to develop the skills and capabilities they need. Young people are taking longer to transition to work, and around one in four young people aren’t making the transition. We need to start measuring what counts for young people’s future.

Beyond ATAR: a proposal for change, a position paper by the Australian Learning Lecture, proposes a radical rethink about how we structure secondary education and the journey to work, higher education, and life.  

Beyond ATAR: a proposal for change position paper

The position paper represents an extended collaboration with leading educators, academics and policy experts following ALL’s second lecture where global education leader Charles Fadel threw out the challenge of the need to move beyond the narrow measure of tertiary entry to enable senior secondary education to prepare students better for today’s world.

The result of this collaboration is three inter-locking recommendations to support the transition of young people from compulsory schooling to further learning, work and life.

The first proposal is that we see the period when young people are aged 15-19 as a distinct phase of education. This would include helping students to map a pathway and agreeing as a nation on what senior secondary curriculum should provide to all learners.

The phase would recognise and build on young people’s individual interests and aspirations, and provide career guidance to help young people make informed choices about the skills they need for the future.

The second proposal is that states and territories agree to work together to design a Learner Profile as a common way of representing the full range of attainments that young people gather during their transition years.

For too long success in senior secondary education has been reduced to a single, ranked number. Young people need to have the breadth of their success . We need to develop a broader measure that captures the knowledge, skills and capabilities of young people.

Learner profiles are used increasingly internationally, including in Hong Kong and at Harvard University, to help young people understand their strengths and developmental needs, and to plan a pathway into higher education and work aligned with their skills and ambitions.

The third proposal is that tertiary education providers adopt broader, more transparent entry criteria and pathways that align with learner’s aspirations and abilities. Despite a myriad of pathways, tertiary education entry can be complex and confusing. Many providers have established alternatives or additional entry requirements to the ATAR, but the lack of consistency makes it difficult for young people to understand what they need to do.

This proposal is aimed at tertiary providers working together to devise a common tertiary education framework to guide entry to tertiary education. This would enable learners to understand and plan their studies around requirements, and for providers to set requirements aimed at supporting student success.

What is different about Beyond ATAR is that it is not a review. It is a well researched bold proposal of a new possible way forward

Together these three proposals represent a significant change for the education system – and an opportunity to ensure that learning in senior secondary school counts for more than a rank.

About the author

Ellen Koshland is the founder of Koshland Innovation Fund which established the Australian Learning Lecture. She holds an honorary doctorate at Swinburne University of Technology.

Interested in more?

Looking for more blogs to read – you can see them all here.

Want to watch more videos – you can find them all here.

And don’t forget to join us on social for more content  Facebook  Instagram  YouTube