Karen Lomas
December 15, 2015

Does ATAR predict Employability?

Todd Quackenbush, thanks to Mikael from Crew

Todd Quackenbush, thanks to Mikael from Crew

Does ATAR predict Employability? I’m about to argue that it does not. But In Australia over the past 2 days, there has been a big noise in ‘mainstream media’ and on social media platforms about ATAR results and this noise, as at this time every year, always bothers me slightly.

See for example, The Age, Victoria ATAR Blog complete with how the schools have ranked in terms of the academic results of their year 12 students, and how these results have translated into a tertiary admissions score . The implication is that a student’s ATAR (and the school’s reputation accordingly) is probably the most significant piece of information about them, almost to the exclusion of all else. It will of course die down, but I know from having witnessed this process year after year, that it can get under the skin of both students and their parents and be potentially detrimental to self esteem when everyone is asking, “what did you get?” For a bit of balance we need to be seeing some front page press about young adults who are making an amazing life for themselves without having gained the number they hoped for.

I think that a young person who has experiences and attributes that mean that they are able to sell themselves, make relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds, show reliability, resourcefulness, creativity, punctuality, are enterprising, hard working, will persevere, maintain calm under pressure… See where I’m going with this? I simply do not believe that a tertiary admission score defines how an individual will function when the coffee machine breaks down mid-shift, or the customer starts ranting about the new pricing structure.

According to the contributors of an article recently published in the journal, ‘Institute of Education’, in the UK, “The ability to make informed decisions is arguably one of the most important skills that young people need from an early age. This is not developed through qualifications, rather through experiences and challenges. In terms of employability, this must also be supported through provision of information, advice and guidance for the young person and their parents wherever possible.”

I am not saying that the study scores that are achieved in years 11 and 12 at senior school are totally worthless. That would be silly. But when those scores are converted into a number that is only of interest to the acceptance officers of tertiary institutions, some students and parents fixate on that number and spend a lot of time discussing how it is going to change that child’s life.

I am suitably proud that at the end of their respective year 12s, my daughters both obtained decent ATARs that enabled them to enroll in Diploma courses in their chosen subjects. But I am equally proud of them for holding down employment and earning good money, because this information on their resume is what employers will ask them about. I suggest that no recruiter is going to talk to you about your ATAR.

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