Why the student ATAR is due for an overhaul

Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice

Why the student ATAR is due for an overhaul

For Victorian year 12 students, the last two years have been like no other. Pandemic shutdowns led to online learning and other disruptions, placing additional pressures on what is regarded as the most important year of students’ lives. Some found the stress too much, completing their VCE without sitting final exams. Consequently, they are not given an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). But how important is the ATAR? And how can careers education better prepare young people for life post-school?

CYPEP director Lucas Walsh invited our Youth Reference Group members to contribute to our latest article published in the Herald Sun on 15 December 2021.

Rebecca says ‘Whilst the ATAR can be important for post-school education, there are many dimensions the ATAR does not measure, such as extra-curricular and service activities, which can be formative for life after school.’

Yuqi believes that the general structure of careers education could be improved by ‘strengthening the connections between different levels of schooling. For example, it would be critical to fill the gap between year 12 and the first year of university.’  She also suggests the career education curriculum should be regularly updated ‘based on the ever-changing labour market [and] emerging careers, such as digital marketing.’

Andrew notes ‘The year after you get your ATAR, it becomes redundant—no one talks about it, everyone just gets on with their life and the pathway they’ve chosen post-secondary school . . . We need to provide students with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to find out what their interests and strengths are, to determine what career pathways they wish to pursue and how they can utilise their transferable skills across multiple industries.’

At a fundamental level, education systems assess what they value, and such assessments serve as merely a proxy of success.  So, a key question is: what do we value?

You can read more about this topic in our Policy Bite Change Five Things: Young people discuss what needs to change in the transition from school