Top of the class

Busting the meritocracy myth

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  • Published 20220127
  • ISBN: 978-1-92221-65-8
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

IT WAS A strange moment, becoming aware that a school I had attended was classified as ‘disadvantaged’. I was standing on the edge of the water- logged deck of a shack down on Bruny Island and although I was protected from the breeze, I could see white horses capping the dark-blue wind slop in glimpses of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, cut into triangles by the cross-stick of trunks and branches. It was 2018 and my phone was pressed to my ear. I had a coffee in hand, but the taste wasn’t hitting the spot – funny I remember that so clearly.

‘We’ve found you a placement school,’ Charlie, the Teach for Australia (TFA) Tasmanian state manager, told me, and he named a city-based college that caters exclusively to Year 11 and 12 students. Until recently, young Tasmanians needed to move from the high schools they attended from Years 7–10 in order to complete their education. The disruption of this transition has led to a cultural perception in the state that senior secondary years are non-compulsory, and this has been widely blamed for Tasmania’s low attainment rate – the latest figures, from 2019, show that only 58 per cent of its potential Year 12 population achieved a Tasmanian Certificate of Education (TCE). Since taking government in 2014, the Tasmanian Liberals have enacted a series of policy changes aimed at addressing this issue, such as introducing ‘extension schools’ through which high schools can offer a limited range of senior secondary courses. However, colleges are still the pathway for most young people – and attainment rates are still low.

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