A Victoria University academic says public celebrations about high-scoring VCE graduates should recognise that not all students are competing on an even playing field.
College of Education PhD candidate Maggie Callingham says today’s release of Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR) scores is often accompanied with widely-publicised success stories about high-ranking schools and their accomplished students.
But it’s important to recognise that many of these schools have socio-economic and funding advantages not available to schools at the other end of the spectrum, noted Maggie.
“Schools that focus on their academic reputations can overtly or covertly exclude students who don’t meet their standards,” she said. “In contrast, schools prepared to take all-comers accept students with a wide range of abilities.”
Academically-selective schools can also use scholarships to entice high-achieving students away from their neighbourhood schools, she said.
Unequal funding also plays a major role, Maggie said. Research shows that funding increases between 2010 and 2013 for Victoria’s three school sectors (government, Catholic and independent) were inversely related to the socio-educational advantage of their students.
The government sector – containing the highest proportion of students with low socio-educational advantage – received the smallest increase in per-student funding, while the Catholic and independent sectors – with relatively low levels of under-privileged students – received higher per-student increases.
“At a time of year when many advantaged schools celebrate their students’ high scores, it’s important to point out that disadvantaged schools also have valid stories to tell of their own students’ results, obtained under far less privileged conditions,” said Maggie.
Maggie Callingham is available for comment. She wrote a more extensive article on this topic for The Conversation.
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