My little sister got her HSC results last week. She did very well. She will definitely get into any of the courses she wants to do and she might even get a bit of a financial boost from some of the unis too based on her rather amazing extracurriculars.
We’re all very happy with her performance. But we’re also happy the stupid thing is over. For my parents, my brother and I all know that real life begins once the HSC is done.
I was around in Albury this year and looking at the ridiculous questions they ask in those exams was just… wow. My sister was telling me she had to incorporate literary techniques into her responses that seriously weren’t even real words. It’s like an exercise in jargon. A bureaucratic jump rope teenagers are sent to hop and skip around, sometimes blindfolded.
The ATAR is also a funny beast. Like lining all the kids up in the state and assessing them on very strange criteria, then putting them in an ordered line and letting them decide what course they want to do, one by one. If the spots run out by the time they get to your number, then sorry, bad luck kid. It’s like the mean kids in the playground choosing a sports team or something.
Just like the mean kids might not pick based on your aptitude for the sport team in question, the HSC doesn’t really require you to show aptitude in anything related to what you will do at uni.
You could for example get in to a science degree without having studied any science or maths. Or get into a journalism or artsy degree based only on scores in science and maths.
It doesn’t really make much sense, but I guess they have to sort it out somehow.
Of course there’s many ways to get into the course you want even if you don’t make the cutoff – transfers etc. And of course at 18 nobody really knows what they really want anyway, so these wishes and hopes and dreams are all liable to change.
But it such a saga of epic proportions, the HSC.
I’m glad my sister was more balanced during her HSC than I was. She is a girl of many talents. She was also very fortunate not to have been bullied throughout high school about her weight continually like I was. So I think I was hinging more of my self-worth on my HSC results, even though we are both equally as competitive.
I remember being devastated when I got my results, even though they were really very good. Crying on my bed like I was a star in an Indonesian sinetron and everything. I thought I wasn’t going to get into my course at uni, I felt particularly harshly graded on my major work for extension 2 english (and I now write for a living, so suck on that HSC markers) and I was about 1.5 ATAR ranks shy of my goal of 98.
I don’t really recall any grand lesson from the HSC except for that life is a somewhat cruel exercise in filling in the paperwork correctly. Sure, I read some good books, but then we analysed them to the point where I’ve never felt like picking any of them up again. I was fortunate to have some great teachers though who gave me lasting lessons that were far more valuable in the long run than anything in the HSC syllabus.
These tests take the joy and wonder out of learning and even though they pretend to be open to creativity and exploration and whatnot, at the end of the day it’s a huge gamble for a 17 or 18 year old to take to not follow the standard approach. The HSC is a game, not an education. You’ve got to play by its rules to win.
And why do the very top achievers nearly always come from the same schools?
Anyway, when I went to uni (I ended up getting into my first choice course, just) I found out that a lot of people who had done very well in the HSC weren’t that great when it came to thinking in different ways and struggled somewhat in uni… the style of learning and teaching at uni is very different to high school.