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Literacy and numeracy skills of Australian students are monitored by the National Achievement Program in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) which is operated by the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA). NAPLAN testing is undertaken in all states in Years 3, 5, & and 9. School NAPLAN results are made publicly available by ACARA on the My School website.
Every three years selected 15-year-old students participate in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA); and every four years selected Year 4 and Year 8 students participate in the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
The certificates offered in Years 11 and 12 are the responsibility of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), which awards the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL).
The majority of senior secondary students undertake VCE. VCE includes general education curriculum components (VCE studies) and programs from Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications.
Students can take between 20 and 24 studies (subjects) over a two-year program. Each study is made up of subject-based units which are one semester in length. There are four units in a full study program—Units 1 and 2 are at Year 11 level and Units 3 and 4 are at Year 12 level.
The VCE provides students with opportunities to prepare for higher education and also to develop vocational skills. The groups of studies are English, arts, languages other than English (LOTE), health and physical education, humanities and social science, mathematics, science and technology.
Each VCE study is designed to provide a two-year program. Units at 1 and 2 level are nationally and internationally benchmarked to a Year 11 standard. Similarly, units at 3 and 4 level are benchmarked to a Year 12 standard. In many studies there are multiple options for students to choose from, such as a choice of mathematics studies and histories.
The VCE covers a wide range of studies and VCE results are used as selection criteria for entry to universities. Each study is made up of subject-based units which are one semester in length. The VCE is awarded on satisfactory completion of at least 16 units. Most students complete a VCE program of 22 to 24 units. At least three units must be in English studies, with one of these units at Unit 3 or 4 level.
Assessment of Units 1 and 2 is school-based; assessment of Units 3 and 4 is both school-based and external. Units may be graded as either satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (N). Grades are given for Units 3 and 4 on a scale from A+ to E, with A+ representing the highest level of achievement.
On completion of VCE, eligible students receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Students use the ATAR score to apply for admission to university. It is administered by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC). A scaled aggregate is calculated using the student’s best four VCE studies, one of which must be in English plus 10 percent of the next two VCE studies.
As well as academic subjects, VCE students can enrol in VET programs. In 2011, 24 VCE VET programs comprising 32 distinct qualifications were available, and 48,431 students were enrolled in VET across a range of industry areas. Many VET programs provide students with the option of undertaking scored assessment of designated Units 3 and 4 (Year 12) sequences.
Scored assessment is available in the following VCE VET programs: Business, Community Services, Dance, Electro-technology, Engineering Studies, Equine Industry, Financial Services, Furnishing, Hospitality, Information Technology, Interactive Digital Media, Laboratory Skills, Music Industry, and Sport and Recreation.
The study score for a VCE VET program is calculated through assessments on a set of coursework tasks and an examination at the end of the year. The score allows students to use their VCE VET programs for direct contribution to their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).
The VCAL is available for students in Years 11 and 12. It provides a Senior Secondary credential through which participating students can receive recognition for practical work-related experience and learning. There are three VCAL levels: Foundation, Intermediate and Senior. Students start and complete the VCAL at the level that matches their needs and abilities.
A VCAL student’s learning program must comprise four compulsory curriculum strands. These are: literacy and numeracy skills: work-related skills; industry-specific skills; and personal development skills. Through both the industry and the work-related skills strands of the VCAL, students are able to gain credit for vocational education and training undertaken in any industry or training setting.
Like the VCE, VCAL is accredited for secondary certification and can lead to further education and training. In 2012 the number of VCAL certificate enrolments was 21,755. The overall VCAL certificate completion rate in 2012 was 73.6%.
School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships comprise:
School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships have Units 1 to 4 level credit towards the VCE. There are ten VCAA-approved industry areas providing a range of qualifications that are available as School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships: Agriculture, Automotive, Business, Community Services, Engineering, Horticulture, Hospitality, Information Technology and Sport and Recreation.
In 2011 there were 4373 certificate enrolments in school-based or part-time apprenticeships and traineeships
A small number of schools in Melbourne offer the International Baccalaureate. The IB Organisation offers three programs for primary, secondary and senior secondary education. These operate independently of the state and territory school systems.
The Primary years Program is offered to students aged three to 12 years. The PYP curriculum has six key areas: language, social studies, mathematics, arts, science and technology; and personal, social and physical education. These subjects are taught in through an interdisciplinary approach. Assessment policies are developed by teachers for school-based assessment of learning outcomes.
The Middle Years Program is offered to students aged 11 to 16. The MYP curriculum has eight key areas: language A; language B; humanities; mathematics; arts; sciences; technology; and physical education. Assessment is based on set standards and objectives for each subject. Assessment is continuous and school-based.
The International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) is a two year program for senior secondary students aged 16 to 19. It is an increasingly popular choice for Australian senior secondary students and provides an alternative to the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (Year 12 award) awarded by the state and territory authorities.
The International Baccalaureate Diploma is recognised by all Australian universities for entrance into higher education programs. Students apply for admission through the Tertiary Admission Centre for the state or territory they wish to study in.
Eligible students, those successfully completing the Victorian Certificate of Education, receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score. Students use the ATAR score to apply for admission to university. It is administered by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC). A scaled aggregate is calculated using the student’s best four VCE studies, one of which must be in English plus 10 per cent of the next two VCE studies.