The HSC (Higher School Certificate) exams start tomorrow with English Paper One. For any parent of a year 12 student in NSW this exam marks the beginning of the end of secondary education for their child. This year that includes me, since one of my sons is about to start his final exams. I have a daughter who took the HSC a few years ago, so I knew what was coming, I knew how stressful this year would be and how mentally tough we would all need to be to survive it intact.
To me year 12 is a little like a train ride, a ride that gets faster as the year goes on and a ride one cannot get off. Since this time last year my son has produced an endless stream of essays, of exam papers, of maths papers and more. As well as a group devised performance major work for drama which took hours and hours of preparation plus an individual performance which also took endless hours to perfect. Now I can only hope that he has mastered the art of writing a short story, by hand, in forty minutes and the perfect essay in much the same time. Not to mention the other five questions he will need to answer in the three hour exam.
So why do I write about the HSC and my son? As I reflect on this year, I wonder just how well he is prepared for life? Just how well he will cope with all that lies ahead and all the challenges he will face as an adult away from the confines of the classroom and the rules that dominate school life? Statistics show that around 30% of next year’s university entrants will drop out or change courses. Were they well prepared? Did they choose the right university courses? Or did they achieve results which pushed them into something they didn’t really care for?
I wonder too about those students who do not come from a stable family. Those whose parents cannot or will not support their studies, Those who need to hold down a job as well, students who have to do more than empty the dishwasher. I am also grateful to my son’s teachers, for they have prepared him well. I am sure though that It does not matter how committed a teacher is, when family circumstances get in the way there is only so much they can do.
To my mind the HSC and exams like it are an archaic ritual that belong in the last century, not something that should be part of the 21st Century. I wonder when or if any of ‘the powers that be’ will be brave enough to stand up and say, enough is enough. For I am sure there must be another way. There must be a better way.
I wonder if my year seven son will have to travel the same path, unfortunately I expect he will.
Image thanks to NSW board of Studies.