Opinion: HSC just one small test of life and learning

BY Friday evening up to 30 per cent of the tests for NSW’s 77,000 HSC candidates will be completed.

Given assessments comprise half the final marks, the end is in sight for this year's crop and their loved ones.

But for those who've done the HSC – or lived quite a happy life without it, thank you – the feeling is clear: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Spare a thought, too, for the 400,000-odd students in years 7 to 11 for whom the spectre of the HSC grows by the term, amid debate over slipping education standards, school funding priorities and policy changes that will set a higher bar for who can sit the HSC.

From next year, year 9 students will need to score in the top three bands of their NAPLAN test – or re-sit it until they do – if they want to qualify for the HSC. This will increase pressure to perform in year 9, but that's no reason to keep allowing students to fall through the cracks without the necessary basics.

A crackdown on cheating and pre-prepared responses also adds to uncertainty for future HSC students, although those reforms will help to reduce the over-reliance on tutoring colleges, some of which game the exam system.

With doubts whether the Gonski needs-based funding will ever be implemented thoroughly, tutoring in theory offers strugglers a chance to reach their potential. The reality, however, is that the wealthy gain while low-income families miss out.

What's more, HSC students of today and the future face more competition for university places. Traditional job opportunities are diminishing and vocational training is under pressure, too.

Little wonder then that many regard the HSC with as much trepidation as they would a creepy clown. You know you shouldn't be scared; it does a lot of good; most people encounter it and emerge none the worse; the chances of succumbing to the stress of your encounter are minimised if you look after yourself; and this one shock to the system simply needs to be put into perspective.

The theory, however, often masks the reality.

Many people do come to see the HSC as defining success or failure in childhood and parenting.

Rest assured, it does not. A well-rounded person has various strengths and weaknesses. He or she learns from every experience, good or bad.