The value of the secondary school certificate: industry leaders and employer perspectives on the quality and representation of graduating students’ skills and capabilities

Author: Hassan Mekawy

Mekawy, Hassan, 2019 The value of the secondary school certificate: industry leaders and employer perspectives on the quality and representation of graduating students’ skills and capabilities, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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A volatile global economy and a rapidly evolving workforce has educational and industry leaders sharpening their focus on defining the 21st Century competencies and capabilities necessary for future economic success and social mobility. How these capabilities are valued, evidenced and represented is a challenge of greater complexity. In Australia, the representation of current educational achievement is narrowly defined by the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR). Less than 50% of students who complete a senior secondary certificate go directly to university and there is little to show for graduating students entering the workforce.

Significant contributions to the literature have been made regarding the issue of school leavers’ preparedness for employment and the workforce of the future. This research aims to extend the debate by investigating the value of the secondary school certificate through

the exploration of industry leaders and employers’ perspectives on the quality and representation of graduating students’ skills and capabilities. The challenge is to investigate what can be inferred about students who achieve the certificate and how it is received and perceived by different stakeholders.

To undertake this research, a qualitative, constructivist approach was employed. The qualitative method used non-probability, purposeful sampling to identify participants and employed semi-structured interviews to capture the data. This research involved interviews with industry and employer representatives, combined with a document analysis of selected reports, case studies and policy documents.

Participants in this research articulated a level of confidence in students’ achievement of Year 12, but found very little value in the representation of the certificate itself. It was evident that industry leaders and employers strongly believed that secondary school

graduates were not adequately prepared for post school employment, but participants possessed limited understanding of the composition or requirements of the certificate.

The dissertation explores whether the purpose of 13 years of education is to develop human capital or human capability, as currently there does not appear to be any clarity regarding the value of the senior secondary certificate beyond a ‘ticket’ to the next stage of life. Not surprisingly, the 21st Century competencies and qualities that build human capability are the same skills industry leaders and employers are looking for in

employees. The findings suggest educational policy makers, leaders and practitioners begin to prioritise the development of capabilities as integral to the purpose of education, and thus support the development of healthy humans and healthy economies.

To address these findings and further questions, the report identifies that curriculum and certification authorities are noticeably silent in the national narrative regarding the high school qualification and recommends aggressive promotion of the value of the certification. It also recommends closer collaboration between industry and education, as there is a distinct misalignment, between the expected and actual role education has, in preparing school leavers for successful transition into the workforce. Finally, the report recommends a re-conceptualisation of the substance and representation of the high school credential to allow students to capitalise on its use value and exchange value.

Keywords: value of education, ATAR, secondary school certification, senior secondary certificate of education

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2019
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Bev Rogers