SACE, or “sexist and constricting education”
It would be hard to imagine a world where the state’s education curriculum isn’t a contentious issue. Parents, and children who have progressed beyond just simply resenting the education system, will always have different educational values and ideas about how they should be implemented. Is it better to encourage all students to finish Year 12, or should we be putting more emphasis on the option of starting a trade? And then there are the subjects being taught – should certain subjects be compulsory? Should subjects like Tourism be offered, or should we stick to the more traditional, like English and Mathematics? For particularly dissatisfied parents, there are other options available, like the I.B. (International Baccalaureate) and Montessori schools. Yet the majority go down the SACE route. So how will the new SACE, which sees a change from five subjects in Year 12 to four (plus the individual Research Project), be affecting the next generation of South Australian students?
The consequences of reducing the number of subjects from five to four are – at least – two-fold (and here I talk with primarily university-bound students in mind). Firstly, it is clear to see that Year 12s will now be less prepared for the academic rigour of tertiary education and face more challenges in taking the subject prerequisites that many university courses require.
Less obvious is the effect that the new system will have on those students who do not yet have their future goals chiselled into stone; to oversimplify, those students who are sitting on the fence between a future in the humanities and one in the sciences. To a certain extent, a student under the old system who was interested in both subject areas, ‘The Humanities’ versus ‘The Sciences/Maths’, could do a mixture of the two during Year 12, and still satisfy the subject prerequisites for certain university courses. Now, with only four subjects allowed, students cannot as easily do this mixture. They no longer have that ‘extra subject’ which, under the five subject system, allowed them to do that class that they just really wanted to do, university prerequisites be damned (Classics, Drama, Visual Arts, I’m looking at you). Now, it will probably only be those students who have firmly decided upon a degree in Medicine, Science, Engineering, who will take those ‘tough’ subjects (Specialist Maths, Physics, Chemistry), because they have to. As a result of this, I am arguing that the new SACE is particularly disadvantageous for females.
The stereotype of women doing humanities is not just a stereotype; in the tertiary system, women are still outnumbering their male peers in Humanities faculties, with the opposite being true in the engineering/science departments. People will argue that this is a matter of choice – if girls want to be teachers and boys want to be physicists, then that is for each to decide for him- or herself. However, with the new SACE, these choices are being restricted. A high school student planning on going into a Bachelor of Science will have to do subjects like Physics and Chemistry in Year 12 because they are pre-requisites for a B.Sc. Yet for students who are not so decided, they are less likely to choose the tough subjects ‘just in case’ they may later need them. The problem is that they will instead do subjects that are not prerequisites for any university course. A student studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History, was not required to do History at high school (or any other particular subject for that matter). Yet, if she did do History at high school, then with only three other subject places available to her, she is less likely to be able to satisfy the prerequisites for a B.Sc, for example (while a student satisfying the right Science prerequisites can, at the end of it all, choose instead to do a BA instead, no problems).
If a woman chooses to study the Humanities at university, then that is one thing, but what kind of choice is it when she cannot do any other degree because she was restricted in her choices at high school? And it will, without a doubt, be the high school girls who will choose English and History over Specialist Maths, rather than the boys (indeed, recently at a prestigious all-girls’ school here in Adelaide, Specialist Maths was no longer offered internally due to lack of demand. The few girls wanting to take the subject had to take it externally, out of school hours – hardly an encouraging start on the difficult road to a male-dominated career). Before the critics point out that it was the individual’s choice in the first place to pick History in Year 11, rather than Physics, say, it must be pointed out that teenagers are notoriously changeable. Ask a few university students and chances are that most of them will have transferred courses at least once. How much weight, then, can we really give to the ‘choices’ of a fifteen-year high school student – a student, moreover, who likely was not given the proper advice or encouragement concerning the subjects that would be in her best future interests?
A world in which there is equality in education and the workforce is still, apparently, a long way off.(Image credit: 1)