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The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the credential awarded to secondary school students who successfully complete senior high school level studies (Years 11 and 12 or equivalent) in New South Wales, Australia. It was first introduced in 1967,with the last major revision coming into effect in 2001. It is currently developed and managed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).
Secondary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education scale. Level 2 or lower secondary education is considered the second and final phase of basic education, and level 3 (upper) secondary education is the stage before tertiary education. Every country aims to provide basic education, but the systems and terminology remain unique to them. Secondary education typically takes place after six years of primary education and is followed by higher education, vocational education or employment. Like primary education, in most countries secondary education is compulsory, at least until the age of 16. Children typically enter the lower secondary phase around age 11. Compulsory education sometimes extends to age 19.
New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
The majority of students undertake HSC-related courses over the final two years of high school, though it is possible to undertake different study patterns over different time periods or through different teaching organisations.
There are a great number of possible courses students can study, totalling over 100 (including languages), in a wide range of subject areas. However, most schools offer students a smaller selection from which they must choose. The only compulsory subject area is English, with one of English Advanced, English Standard, English as a Second Language or English Life Skills required for the award of the HSC. (English Extension 1 and English Extension 2 are also available for English Advanced students). Individual schools may require their students to undertake certain courses, as is the case with Studies of Religion in many religious schools or Agriculture in agricultural schools. However, these are internal school requirements separate from HSC requirements.
Most courses offered comprise a preliminary (Year 11) component and an HSC (Year 12) component. As a general rule the preliminary component must be completed prior to the HSC component. Furthermore, each subject is designated as either one or two "units". Each unit involves approximately two hours of formal tuition per week, and contributes a maximum mark of 50. The majority of courses are two unit courses, and thus students receive marks out of 100 in these courses. 10 units is the minimum number of units required, however students can attempt more should they choose. If they do, their final ATAR mark is calculated using their best 2 units of English and 8 best other units. Extension courses, each with a value of one unit, may be included in the study program, meaning that a certain subject area may have up to four units, e.g. English (Advanced) (two units) plus English Extension 1 and English Extension 2 (each worth one unit).
To be eligible for the award of the HSC a student must have satisfied the requirements in at least twelve preliminary level units, and at least ten HSC level units, with the additional requirements that:
Further restrictions may apply in certain subject areas.
Note that these requirements are for the award of the HSC. Further requirements regarding study patterns apply if the student wishes to apply for a separate Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) based on their HSC performance.
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia. It was gradually introduced during 2009 and 2010 to replace the Universities Admission Index, Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank and Tertiary Entrance Rank. Queensland still retains its own separate Overall Position system, but began using the national ATAR system for year 10 subjects in 2018, which will impact year 12 students graduating in 2020.
There are two main types of courses available in the HSC: Board Developed Courses and Board Endorsed Courses. Board Developed Courses have a syllabus and final exam set by the Board of Studies, and generally may be included in the calculation of the ATAR. Board Endorsed Courses are developed by the school, and may vary from school to school in regards to content and assessment.
Being the only mandatory course for HSC, for English, students must choose between one of the English courses available to study.
The following is a list of elective Board Developed Courses currently available to students.
HSIE (Human Society and Its Environment):
The Higher School Certificate (HSC) Economics course is a 2-unit elective course undertaken by students in New South Wales across their final 2 years of schooling. The course includes a preliminary program for study across 3 terms of Year 11, and an HSC course for study over 4 terms of Year 12. In 2012, 5,262 students sat the HSC Economics external examination, with 12.5% receiving the top performance indicator of a Band 6. The course aims to take a "problems and issues approach" to the teaching and learning of economics, with a particular emphasis on the economic problems and issues experienced by individuals and society.
Information Processes and Technology (IPT) is the study of information systems and the processes and technology involved in them. IPT is also a subject offered to senior high school students in Australia in university entrance exams such as the HSC in New South Wales. It focuses on giving the student an understanding of information technology, information processes and the skills to create information systems and some basic programming skills. Some of the social and ethical issues of computer systems may also be included in the course of the subject.
Software Design and Development (SDD) is the study of designing and developing software. SDD is also a subject offered to senior high school students in Australia in university entrance exams such as the Higher School Certificate (HSC) and the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).
PDHPE (Personal Development, Health and Physical Education):
Board Endorsed Courses:
Languages are also offered as Beginners, Continuers, Extension, Background Speakers and recently, Heritage courses.Only one course of any one language may be taken, with the exception of Extension, available only to students taking the Continuers course. Due to the large number of language courses, they have been listed separately. The letters B (beginners), C (continuers), E (extension), BS (background speakers), H (heritage) indicate which courses are available for study.
In addition, some VET (Vocational Education and Training) courses are offered. In addition to HSC credit, completion of these courses may earn an industry Certificate II. Ten of these are Board Developed Courses (BDC)
A student's final mark in each subject is determined by a combination of in-school assessments conducted throughout the HSC component of a course, and externally administered final exam(s) typically held in October or November of that year. In addition to comprising half of a student's final assessment result in a subject, external exam results are also used to statistically moderate in-school assessment results between different schools.
These exams are administered by NESA, which is responsible for the overall oversight of the HSC.
Upon successful completion of a satisfactory pattern of study students are awarded the Higher School Certificate by way of a testamur.
Whenever a student has completed a course they also receive feedback regarding their results in that course, which typically includes exam results, school assessment results and the performance band in which their performance lies.
Students who achieve excellent results of over 90 in 10 units of study in the HSC are awarded the Premier's Award by the New South Wales government. The most outstanding of these students may also be awarded the Australian Student Prize by the Commonwealth government. The T G Room award of the Mathematical Association of New South Wales is given to the student with the best score in the highest-level HSC mathematics examination.
HSC results may also be used to calculate the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Similar ranking processes used previously were called the UAI (Universities Admission Index) and the TER (Tertiary Entrance Rank). The ATAR is a separate ranking calculated by another body, the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), and is used for determining university entrance. Since 1998 the university entrance rank has been issued separately from the HSC results in order to distinguish the two.
The vocational equivalent to Year 12 will change from certificate II in 2015 to certificate III in 2020 by the Council of Australian Governments, mainly because Year 12 qualification has minimal hours greater than those of a level II qualification, where they correspond more closely to the hours of level III qualification.Although the completion of high school would lead to better labour market results, it is also established that an scholarly pathway is not always suited for all and that some are unaccustomed to the institutionalised nature of schools. This has led to an understanding that there should be alternatives to Year 12 completion. As such, the idea of a vocational equivalent to Year 12 is a response to this. The construct of a vocational equivalent to completing a senior school certificate (denoted by the completion of Year 12) has been an attribute of government policy since the late 1990s, with a declaration stating:
"All students have access to the high quality education necessary to enable the completion of school education to Year 12 or its vocational equivalent and that provides clear and recognised pathways to employment and further education and training."
In the United Kingdom, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification, generally taken in a number of subjects by pupils in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. State education in Scotland does not use GCSEs, instead its Scottish Qualifications Certificate operates National / Intermediate exams at the equivalent level, however, certain private schools in Scotland offer GCSEs, and the proportion of Scottish pupils taking GCSEs to facilitate admission to English universities is increasing.
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The Universities Admission Index (UAI) was used in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, Australia, as the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs. It was a number between 0 and 100, occurring in increments of 0.05 and indicating the rounded percentile rank of a student who undertook the Higher School Certificate or ACT Year 12 Certificate with a valid quantity and combination of units of study. It was replaced in N.S.W with the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) in 2009.
TAFE NSW is an Australian vocational education and training provider. Annually, the network trains over 500,000 students in campus, workplace, online, or distance education methods of education. It was established as an independent statutory body under the TAFE Commission Act 1990. The Minister for Regional Development, Skills and Small Business is responsible for TAFE NSW.
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English is the only compulsory subject for the award of the Higher School Certificate at the end of secondary schooling in New South Wales, Australia. Marks gained in at least two units of English must also be included in the calculation of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) used to determine entry to university. Students must study one of the following courses:
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