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Why does the SACE need to change?

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The subsequent Report of the Review of Senior Secondary Education in South Australia followed wide consultation throughout the state and the Northern Territory, involving educators, all education sectors, parents, employers, unions, politicians, community members and young people themselves. Young people in South Australia are generally less well qualified than their equivalents in other states. People felt that this was a major contributing factor to the decision by young people to leave school before the end of year 12.

The concept of the learning space is designed to give all young people access to the full range of learning opportunities and experiences offered by the education and training system.

A 'new SACE'

The learning space will strengthen partnerships between all those involved in education and training, so that young people and the system as a whole can make the best use of available resources. It will support all young people at a critical point in their transition to independence and adulthood. A new SALES is conceived as part of this wider education and training system, operating within the 'learning space' rather than being seen as a dominant school base.

In other words, the learning space is part of a wider strategy aimed at achieving 'success for all' that is also aligned with the key objectives of the South Australian Strategic Plan. The Approved Curriculum will consist of a range of possible learning units based on, for example, frameworks developed by or commissioned by the SALES Authority; units developed by schools and accredited by the SALES Authority; vocational education and training programs; informal or non-formal learning that is accredited by the SALES Authority;. An overview of the new SALE structure is shown in two different ways in Figure 1 and the features are described in the following pages.

Credit points

Capabilities—the heart of the new SACE

The interaction between the abilities and disciplinary knowledge will be central to teaching and learning. The report suggests that the abilities should be a central consideration in the formation of learning outcomes in the new SARO. The new SARO involves a move to the concept of learning units, which can vary in length and contribute to the certificate through credit points.

It is recommended that study unit frameworks are developed for each study unit in Stage 1 and Stage 2, and that they follow a common set of design specifications to provide greater commonality of curriculum design, while being broad enough to allow for local interpretation. Learning units should be broad enough to allow local interpretation and respond to change, and therefore be more focused on the future. In the short term, learning units offered by schools will most likely be one semester long with a value, typically, of 10 credit points.

However, as schools and their communities seek to take advantage of the flexibility that is available through the credit point system, a much more diverse range of curriculum units will emerge. These may consist entirely of learning units developed and accredited by the SALES Authority, or may be a combination of these with learning options drawn from many different sources both within and outside South Australia. To address this concern, he recommends having a small number of learning outcomes in each unit of study to explain what students will know, understand and be able to do at the end of a unit of study.

Core learning units

At Phase 1, the Personalized Learning Plan focuses on schools working with students to review and assess each student's skills, support students to plan a SACE learning program, and further develop the knowledge and skills that will help students successfully participate in that program. A specific focus at Stage 2 is on what happens beyond their senior secondary education, and the knowledge and skills they will need to make successful transitions to work, further education and training. Schools will have a primary role and responsibility in helping students access learning opportunities inside and outside their school to carry out their plans.

A number of those consulted noted that there were few opportunities in SACE for students to pursue in depth a topic of interest or passion. It is proposed that the new SALE includes two learning units, one each at Level 1 and 2 levels, called the Extended Learning Initiative. Regardless of the form or context of a student's particular extended learning initiative, it involves a substantial unit of study that will engage the student in an in-depth study of a topic.

At Phase 1, the Extended Learning initiative enables students to develop an area of ​​deep individual learning within a broad framework that focuses on Australia and the world. At Phase 2, the Extended Learning initiative is seen as a self-directed learning experience that encourages students to demonstrate a higher level of autonomous learning than at the Phase 1 level. As well as being an opportunity for students to engage in rigorous and challenging independent learning, the Extended Learning initiative at Stage 2 is also an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge by drawing on each of the abilities they developed during their senior secondary education.

Approved Learning Program

For example, they may take place in the workplace or in the community and may involve the development of practical ideas or products. For example, the output can be a performance or presentation, an artifact or product, a report or a portfolio. They are expected to develop in-depth knowledge and skills related to their interest and to develop skills related to thinking, planning, acting and evaluating.

Students can explore a topic in a planned and well-managed way, with a view to presenting the knowledge gained and the conclusions reached. They will need to develop and demonstrate skills in research, creativity, knowledge organization, planning, time management, presentation and communication, and in some cases teamwork.

Focusing on key skills: literacy and numeracy

While the committee suggests greater reliance on teacher judgment in the new SALE, it also believes there is room for external assessment to include a range of strategies to review student learning. It is therefore proposed that all learning units at level 2 have a significant proportion of external assessment, which enables students to demonstrate their learning. Although external evaluation is already a feature of Level 2, some aspects received considerable criticism during the review.

The panel therefore believes that external evaluation needs to be thought of differently and in ways that can open up a wider range. For example, external assessment is not simply equated with three-hour written exams, which are just one form. It is also strongly recommended that all proposals for external evaluation be subject to strict scrutiny rather than being used out of habit and practice.

This means that a case will have to be made to justify the specific form of external assessment chosen for a study unit, and this justification will have to be in learning terms, based on its suitability for learning purpose. Here it is proposed that the weight of the external assessment should be 70 percent, with 30 percent teacher assessment. As part of the development of the study unit framework for the Extended Learning initiative, further consideration should be given to the optimal balance between teacher assessment and external assessment.

Figure 2: Stage 1 and Stage 2 reporting levels
Figure 2: Stage 1 and Stage 2 reporting levels

Quality assurance

A third component of the proposed comprehensive quality assurance system is the establishment of an Institute for Educational Assessment. The operations of the SALES authority and all aspects of the quality assurance processes will be included in this process. The Review Panel is of the opinion that the credibility of the SALE can be maintained by making it even more flexible and inclusive.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) are important areas of learning for students and should continue to earn credits towards completing the SALE. The needs and interests of SALE's key users, including employers, universities and the continuing education and training sector, have been addressed through the proposed new SALE reporting mechanisms. They would be more evolutionary than revolutionary in order to maintain continuity with what currently exists and to ensure that those most affected by the changes have every opportunity to influence the development of the new SALE.

The implementation process of the new SALE is an ideal opportunity to consolidate and expand partnerships within and beyond education. The scope of the proposed reforms goes well beyond the powers granted to the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of SA (SSABSA) under the Constitutive Act. It is important that the quality of learning and stability of the current system is maintained for students taking the existing SALE, and this should remain the primary focus of SSABSA.

Governance and the SSABSA Act

Appendix: Recommendations

The SACE Authority

Development, research and testing is taking place in relation to the use of e-assessment as an integral component of the new SALE. The Minister is establishing a group comprising members of the three school sectors, disability service providers, educators and parents to consider how the completion arrangements proposed for the new SARO best meet the learning needs of students with disabilities and/or health conditions can provide. Consideration is given to the provision of a web-based system to enable the recording of all results and achievements.

The SALES Authority sends results data to SATAC for use in making decisions regarding tertiary entry and SATAC is asked to communicate these decisions directly to candidates. An Office of Senior Secondary Renewal (OSSR), responsible to the Minister for Education and Children's Services and operated through a cooperative agreement with the three school education sectors, is being established immediately to begin the process of preparation for the new SALE. South Australia has a statutory authority in place which is appropriate in its design, functions, powers and modus operandi to fulfill the roles expected of it in the proposed new SALE.

Figure

Figure 2: Stage 1 and Stage 2 reporting levels

References

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