Letting schools off the hook? Exploring the role of Australian secondary schools in the COAG Year 12 attainment agenda

Jack Keating, Glenn C. Savage, John Polesel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set a target to lift Australia's Year 12 or equivalent attainment rate from 83.5 to 90% by 2015. In the context of global financial uncertainty, the target was rationalised as a means for boosting national productivity and developing human capital to help Australia compete in the global knowledge economy. Historically, Year 12 attainment targets have been designed to pressure state and territory education systems to innovate and reform senior secondary curriculums and certificates, as retention and attainment rates depend largely on how flexible, diverse and inclusive the senior years are. In this paper, however, we argue that the COAG Year 12 attainment agenda is flawed and does very little to inspire innovation or reform in Australian senior secondary schools. Our argument comprises three parts. First, we argue that the COAG agenda is based on a weakened measure of attainment which is misleading and directs the burden for innovation away from senior secondary schools. Second, we argue that there are inherent limits in Australian secondary school systems which prevent the depth of innovation required to significantly contribute to raising Year 12 attainment. Third, we argue that the COAG agenda is further weakened by issues of equivalency, quality and comparison. Together, these arguments cast doubt over the value and meaningfulness of the COAG Year 12 attainment agenda and of target setting as a governmental strategy in this context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-286
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Volume28
Issue number2
Early online date18 Oct 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

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