By Gianni Di Giovanni
Western Australian high school students have achieved better results than the national average, which saw 25 percent of students leave high school without any qualifications or certificates.
Eighty-per-cent of students who completed year 12 in WA last year were awarded the Western Australian Certificate of Education or WACE certificate, which is up from 54.9 percent of students in 2009.
In 2008 legislation was passed which required all WA high school students to stay in school until the end of the year they turned 17.
Michelle Ostberg, Director of Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education, said that the increased school leaving age wasn’t the only reason why student graduations had increased.
“Being mandatory they could have attended school and previously it didn’t necessarily require them to complete a VET qualification, but really schools have recognised that the education they get is so much broader by studying VET qualifications and it positions [students] well to transition successfully into the workforce,” said Ms Ostberg.
From next year the WACE certificate will require students to complete either a Certificate II or achieve an ATAR score to be eligible to graduate.
Associate Professor Laura Perry of Murdoch University, who studies educational policy, said there isn’t one model that works for every situation but there are some European systems which achieve close to 100% graduation with a mix of traditional schools and skills-based vocational colleges.
“The advantage of a mixed model is that schools can be created that teach younger children how to learn a vocational skill set and our current TAFE system is not set up for 15 or 16-year-olds, so we can make sure younger students aren’t dissuaded by that type of learning and go on to complete a qualification,” said Dr Perry.
“There are higher stakes however, because a narrower training model means that students finish school with only one set of skills, and I believe that a broad flexible model like the one we have in Australia allows those students who are unsure about what they want to do with their life the opportunities to change paths.”
Dr Perry said that it was important that schools were well supported as the cost of creating new flexible and innovative methods of teaching meant that some schools weren’t able to vary their curriculum to suit individual student needs.