Tonight I had the rare privilege of having my daughters talk to me while I was cooking tea. Food is still on, but I am taking the time to start this post while it cooks. Just a stew I am afraid, something I like but the rest of my family does not.
This year, thank God, is the last year we have to put up with the NSW Higher School Certificate. While I will be very sad to see the end of my connection with the school world, I will not miss the HSC. Not one bit.
In all the discussion now underway in Australia about measurable educational standards, few mention that education is meant to involve fun as well as work or, for that matter, that there is more to life than formal work or study. No wonder the idea of a gap year has become so popular. Kids just want to get away from study.
The core of the problem lies in the continuous assessment system. Learning from the experience of (Helen) eldest, both we and Clare are much more focused on the cumulative school mark that will ultimately, when scaled, form half the marks. The final public exams form the other half. Here Clare's results are presently very mixed, all the way from a band one in English to a high band five in art.
In management terms, and I have come to think of the HSC not as education but as a management problem involving the whole family, we obviously have some issues that need to be addressed in English, whereas art is looking like a potential band six.
The problem is to work out just what to do.
If we look at the likely UAI, the final University admission mark, Clare's three units of English (she dropped the fourth unit along with two unit maths ealier in the year) stand to more than offset high band fives or even sixes in art and ancient history. Of the other subjects, drama is a bit problematic at the moment, while design and technology is sort of sitting in the middle.
Thank heaven for eldest in all this. She is, I suspect, a born teacher and has been through the system, so she can identify and explain problems to Clare in a way that we cannot.
I am sad about English. Clare had been blossoming in this area. She loves reading, has a great ear for dialogue, and was doing a lot of her own writing. Despite extra coaching outside the school, she has gone backwards this year in the face of the particular disciplines and rigour of HSC English. With help from Helen she will pull up, but I still find it sad that the effect of studying English has been a reduced interest in the subject and in writing.
Conversely, her love of ancient history and of art has grown. To me, art has been the surprise. I have always known that Clare was creative, but I had no idea at the start of year 11 that art would become her best subject.
Her major work, really a series of works, has just been reviewed by external examiners organised by the school to give the girls an independent assessment of progress. Clare originally chose her art project to reinforce her English studies, using different art styles to interpret English works. While that objective has really gone, the art has continued.
The examiner's assessment was mixed - some works were highly praised, others criticised - but the overall tone was positive and also gave her some clear guidance.
Enough. Time to eat.