'HSC has had its day': leading educator calls for overhaul

Greg Whitby supplied pic
Greg Whitby executive director of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.
Greg Whitby supplied pic Greg Whitby executive director of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.
Greg Whitby supplied pic
Greg Whitby executive director of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

Greg Whitby supplied pic Greg Whitby executive director of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

The HSC is an "artefact of the past" that should be scrapped, according to a leading NSW Catholic educator who warns that NAPLAN data is often misused and misrepresented and should not be linked to year 12 results.

Greg Whitby, the director of Catholic education in the Parramatta diocese which has more than 45,000 students, said the HSC was a relic of the 1950s and no longer reflected the needs of young people entering a rapidly changing workforce.

"The HSC has had its day. The current HSC is rarely used to seek employment and only 20 per cent of students use their ATAR to get into university," Mr Whitby said.

"When you have students around the world doing MOOCs online (massive open online courses) and are designing their own degrees, there is no doubt the credential is going to have to change otherwise all we are doing is looking backwards."

He said the International Baccalaureate, which is described as a program to achieve the "intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalising world" is an example of a "highly credible credential".

Mr Whitby, who is responsible for 80 primary and high schools in western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, will receive the prestigious Sir Harold Wyndham Medal Award on Friday for outstanding contribution to the education of young people in NSW.

He is leading a "transformation agenda", including greater collaboration between teachers, data walls where the learning progress of every student is physically stuck on a wall to be easily tracked and schools that operate from 6am to 6pm.

Mr Whitby said the Australian education system remained too focused on "rear vision strategies", including an increasing focus on testing, especially NAPLAN.

The latest NAPLAN data released this week revealed that year 9 students in NSW had improved their results but almost 70 per cent would need to sit an extra reading, writing or numeracy test to be eligible for their HSC.

For the first time, the state government's new minimum literacy and numeracy standard will require year 9 students to achieve at least a NAPLAN band 8 in three areas - reading, writing and numeracy - or they will have to pass an online test in the following years to qualify for their HSC in 2020.

The data showed that more than half of all year 9 students would need to sit the numeracy or reading online test, while 60 per cent would need to do an extra writing test.

"Linking something like NAPLAN to a proposition that is no longer relevant like the HSC does not make sense," Mr Whitby said.

Mr Whitby said using a "blunt instrument" like NAPLAN was about competition rather than achievement.

"NAPLAN is an industry now, you can walk into a post office and buy books on it, some schools suspend teaching and focus on NAPLAN and there are even reports that some schools tell students not to turn up for the tests," Mr Whitby said.

"Driving education achievement by competition just does not work."

This story 'HSC has had its day': leading educator calls for overhaul first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.