Mentioned in today’s symposium was the VCE system, with Elliot bringing up exam knowledge retention rates. According to this article, medical students forget 25-35% of basic science knowledge after just one year, and have forgotten up to 80% in 25 years. In my own experience, I’ve found that I remember hardly anything from my information-heavy VCE classes. Just tonight my sister asked me to help her with her Year 11 geography homework, a subject I completed three years ago. I figured once I had a look at what she was doing, it would all come back to me. But I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t remember the basic acronym for map essentials, or how to write a geographically worded paragraph.
Some might find this low retention rate reason to question the point in learning at all. And while I agree with Adrian that VCE should not be seen as the be-all and end-all, I do think it has merits. Up until the very end of VCE, I had no idea what I wanted to do after school (I still don’t really know if I’ve made the right choice, but until I find a better option, I’ll stick with Media). VCE offered me the opportunity to explore a range of different subjects, even to do a VET, VCAL or TAFE course at the same time. I was able to bring my experience working at McDonalds into my studies through a Certificate of Retail, which boosted my ATAR and gave part-time work a non-economic purpose.
But while VCE may have worked out okay for me, some of my friends now look back on it as a waste of time. My school, while good at showing us other options if we asked, also pushed us to VCE if we were capable (they were especially keen on keeping anyone who would achieve high marks, and thus help them boost their reputation). I think most of us felt that VCE was the path to success. But for some people, it was just two years they could have spent doing something else. I have friends doing diplomas they always knew they wanted to do, and thus could have completed by now. I have friends in apprenticeships and in TAFE, and while some didn’t figure out that that’s what they wanted to do until after Year 12, others knew all along and just felt compelled to complete VCE in case they changed their mind. They don’t regret completing VCE, but certainly don’t see it as something that has helped them thus far.
I wonder if the attitude towards VCE will ever change. Maybe if university costs get higher, more people will consider other options earlier on, but I doubt it. A change in mindset will not occur on it’s own. There needs to be a general change in the way success is viewed. Success is not a piece of paper you get when you’re 18, unless that’s how you want to measure your success. For others, success may be a Certificate in Early Childhood Education, or a part-time job which pays for overseas travel. I view my completion of VCE as a success, because I know that I worked hard and it got me to where I want to (sort of) be. Whatever success is, it’s personal and shouldn’t be a generalised notion.