ATAR: need to retain objective measure

The removal of ATAR would undermine the HSC and threaten academic standards, said NSW Teachers Federation President Maurie Mulheron in reference to media reports the national tertiary entrance system was under review.

Mr Mulheron said there will always be a need for an objective academic measure as a standard for entry into university.

“To lose the ATAR would mean that other filtering and selection methods could be used, which will not reflect the actual curriculum of years 11 and 12,” he said.

“This could greatly diminish the importance of the HSC but more importantly the academic rigour of years 11 and 12.

“Some universities have been deliberately lowering or ignoring the ATAR entry requirement merely to increase the number of undergraduates so that they can have their funding increased. For example, entry requirements into initial teacher education in many universities have been lowered dramatically with some students admitted with ATAR scores of less than 50.

“This has been done purely for funding reasons. To remove the ATAR would be to risk creating a plethora of marketbased entry requirements with a lack of uniformity, a threat to academic standards and a decoupling of university admission from the senior school curriculum.

“People need to be very careful of what they wish for.” Mr Mulheron said the strength of ATAR is its inextricable link in NSW to the curriculum of years 11 and 12, because it is derived directly from the HSC mark.

“That HSC mark is not just based on examination scores; it is 50 per cent examinations and 50 per cent school-based assessment,” he said. “Both the schoolbased and the actual examination derive directly from the centrally determined syllabuses.

“So there is a direct linkage from the senior curriculum to teaching and learning experiences reflected in school-based assessment and a final examination of what a student has been taught, through to the ATAR.”

Mr Mulheron reminded critics of the ranking that seeking an ATAR is voluntary and many HSC students chose not to.

“We believe there is no problem with other factors being considered for tertiary entrance as well, such as aptitude and so on, but not instead of an objective academic measure,” he said. “ATAR Plus might be one way of expressing that concept.

“Not everyone who wants to go to university should, and we need to apply a standard of entry that is objective and anonymous, where a student’s social standing, ability to pay, or the school they attended is irrelevant.”