When we first became aware that most Tasmanian young people were not completing their year 12 certificates, the ordinary expectation of students in other states, we wondered whether there might be something wrong with our senior secondary certificate – the Tasmanian Certificate of Education (TCE). Might Tasmania have made its TCE too hard?
We tested this idea by looking at the percentage of students at Tasmania’s private schools who gain their TCEs, and compared this to the percentage of students at like private schools in other states gaining their senior secondary certificates – such as the HSC in NSW and the VCE in Victoria. We found no difference. So we concluded that the explanation for Tasmania’s low rate of year 12 attainment could not be that our TCE is too hard, and moved on to look for other explanations.
But not everyone else agreed. Recently we have heard from teachers that the TCE is harder to obtain than the senior secondary certificates of other states, and that this is the reason for our low rate of senior secondary completion. We responded as above and thought that was all that needed to be said, until Colin Pettit, then the Secretary of the Department of Education, supported by Liz Banks, Deputy Secretary Early Years and Schools, Department of Education, made a similar claim – that students have to do more to get their TCE than is required for other states’ senior secondary certificates – in their presentation to the UTAS Education Transforms Symposium.
So we thought we should look at the matter more closely, by setting out in detail what a student needs to do to gain their TCE compared to what would be required to gain the equivalent senior secondary certificate in the other states.
We did this by looking at the web sites of the senior secondary authorities in each of the states, summarising each state’s requirements for its certificate in a table, then sending the table to experienced principals in each state to ask for their comment and correction as relevant. The result is the Senior Secondary Certificate Requirements in all States table you will find in the Did You Know section of this site. (Note: the table presents the various states’ requirements in a way that we think best shows the educational policy choices made by each. It is not intended as advice to students and should not be used for that purpose. Rather, the relevant state’s official information for students should relied upon for specific advice.)
We think this shows, rather than the TCE being harder to obtain, that it is in fact the least demanding of all the states’ senior secondary certificates. To put that plainly: if Tasmanian students had to meet the requirements of the senior secondary certificates in any of the other states (with the possible exception of the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning, taken without meeting the requirements for university admission) our rate of completion would likely be lower, not higher (though students’ achievements generally rise with increased expectations). So the ‘TCE is harder’ is not a plausible explanation of why our rate of senior secondary completion is significantly lower than those in all other states – 20-30% lower in fact.
For an explanation of this problem, we really do need to look elsewhere – in particular at why so few Tasmanian year 10 students continue with enough education or training to make it possible to gain their TCE.
But let’s just focus on some key concerns with the TCE, which we present as simple questions and plain answers in the following table. Justifications for each of these answers will be found in the details contained in the attached full table analysing the various requirements.
The other five states have senior certificates – the WACE, SACE, VCE (and VCAL), HSC, QCE
|in comparison with ….||WACE||SACE||VCE||VCAL (intermediate
or senior level
|1. do Tasmanian students have to do more study?||No||No||No||A bit more||No||No|
|2. do Tasmanian students have to achieve at a higher level?||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|3. do Tasmanian students have to reach a higher standard in reading/writing?||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|4. do Tasmanian students have to reach a higher standard in maths?||No||No||NA||No||NA||No|
|5. do Tasmanian students have the same number of years to finish?||No, more||No, more||No, more||No, more||No, more||No, more|
|6. do Tasmanian students have greater restrictions on where (what kinds of institution) they can study?||No||No||No||No||No||No|
But of course this simple table does not give the full set of requirements for any of the senior secondary certificates. Might Tasmania have adopted additional requirements for the TCE which are more onerous that the other states?
We leave the reader to look at the attached table and consider this question for themselves, taking up just the one issue of this kind that we have heard a lot about lately – the claim that the TCE is harder because unlike all other states’ senior secondary certificates, attaining the TCE requires the demonstration of ordinary adult capability to use computers and the internet.
We make just one point. This additional requirement cannot be the explanation of why Tasmania’s rate of year 12 attainment is so much lower, 20 – 30% lower, than the other states, because in 2013 only 174 students who had completed the required amount of study (120 points) did not meet this requirement. (This figure comes from the TQA 2014 Annual Report, Statistics Related to Post-Year 10 Attainment in Education and Training, Table 1.) So waiving this requirement (which, we imagine, would not be supported by employers or the community given that our future prosperity lies with a high tech, high skills, knowledge intensive economy) would at the very best have increased the number of students gaining the TCE in 2013 from 3,319 to 3,493, an increase of 5% (using the figures from the same TQA annual report). This still leaves a very large gap with Tasmania some 15-25% below the rest of Australia’s rate of year 12 attainment, for which some other explanation must be found.
Eleanor Ramsay and Michael Rowan.
Comments and criticisms welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org