We are at the end of the first week of the HSC for 2015 and I must say that I am a little disappointed by the current methodology employed by the Board of Studies. There is a huge emphasis placed on averaging your performance over an extended period of time rather than a focus on performing on the day.

That would be like judging the winner of the Rugby World Cup on sprint times from a team’s last 30 training runs or winning margins during the pool stage. Imagine the scene – we sit down in front of the TV for the final on 31 October and the Wallabies run out to look brave and face the Haka of New Zealand. After the national anthems the referee walks to the middle to blow the whistle and the scoreboard shows Aus 0 – NZ 4.75. In the pool stages, Australia’s average winning margin was 26.5 whilst New Zealand had an average winning margin of 31.25. Based on the same concept as the HSC, it only seems fair that performances in previous matches give you an advantage in the final. You can imagine the reaction of the crowd and viewers at home. The spectators want to see a contest between two teams when all that matters is how they perform today.

Stephen Smith, the current captain of the Australian Cricket Team, has the excellent batting average of 56.27 but each and every time he walks out to bat his score is zero. What shows on the scoreboard in each match are the runs that he scores today. Not yesterday or last week.

Our lives are defined by moments. In the dark distant past (read – when I did the HSC) the HSC score was judged on how students performed in the exams at the end of Year 12. It seems to me that the entire current process is designed to remove the pressure of the final do-or-die exam. This is nothing like what happens in real life. Job interviews; presentations; performances; sports and many activities in life rely on us grabbing a brief opportunity when it presents itself.

Jimmy Barnes will be in Dubbo next March performing as part of the Red Hot Summer Tour – a series of fifteen concerts across the eastern seaboard. It is of no use to the audience in Dubbo if Jimmy performs fantastically at Sandstone Point before he arrives in Dubbo but then tells the audience he is a bit tired for our concert – but it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t perform that well because he was absolutely on fire at the last few concerts. When Jimmy walks on stage – every single time he walks on stage – he needs to perform at his absolute best. There is no averaging of the last ten performances in the life of an artist.

Life is a series of choices and the decisions we make and how we perform in those ‘moments’ will often define our lives. My logic with the current HSC methodology is that it seems to be creating an unrealistic environment where students are taught that a single performance isn’t that important.

You only have to ask 126 Mayors across the State – in particular 12 Mayors – about the importance of a moment in time. Of the 152 Councils across the State, 26 of these have a popularly elected Mayor and the other 126 elect a Mayor by the Councillors. This occurs in September each year and 12 Councils this year had a tied vote which resulted in a draw from a bucket for the election of the Mayor. As Forbes Shire Council found out, regardless of how it occurs, once there is a tie, a random draw must take place. There is no going back and there is no ‘best of three’ voting process.

None of this is to degrade the importance of preparation. In fact it emphasises the importance of preparation. When you know you must perform on a given time or day, PPPPP (Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance) is a relevant catchphrase. When the Mayors put their hands up in September, they are largely being judged on the here and now but there is no doubt that a part of the process is their performance over the previous 12 months.

I may be starting to get a little bit of GOMS but the current schooling system seems to have picked up a general malaise of teaching for a specific exam outcome rather than teaching for skills in life. I am a fan of critical thinking – which is particularly useful when serving in a role as a Councillor – but the current schooling system seems to focus more on regurgitation than thinking. The HSC system of assessments and small exams over a 12 month period seems to be symptomatic of those problems.

Tell me if you think the HSC should throw away the assessment concept at mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au.

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