Come this time of year you can generally expect a whole heap of HSC bashing dominating the media, your social media feeds and broader discussion. The debates against are well-rehearsed, and to be perfectly honest, old.
I remember them from when I was doing my year 12 exams almost 20 years ago. You know the drill: it’s too stressful, arbitrary, too much focus is put on it, no-one will ever ask you your ATAR ever again, and of course, how can we possibly expect a 17 or 18-year-old to make a decision about their career path?
Out come the standard articles and tweets: I did poorly on my HSC and now I’m a CEO, and of course, I’m a CEO and I’ve never asked my tens of hundreds of employees their HSC mark, and lastly, Why can’t we let kids be kids?
WATCH: Mia Freedman discuss how there is life after your Year 12 exams. Post continues below.
Don’t get me wrong: they are all very valid points, albeit tired ones.
I don’t disagree with them, but I do think they need a refresh. I also think the old system needs an advocate. Because as much as there are a lot of things wrong about the HSC, there are also a lot of things right about it that rarely get surfaced. There are a lot of empowering and inspiring things about the HSC that never get acknowledged.
When I was 17-years-old, I was a weird teen from the Shire. My parents were Italian migrants, we didn’t speak English at home and my dad was a radical (the kind of person we would now title “woke”, but back then was just a strange Italian man who preached socialism and wore the same uniform every day in rebellion against capitalism).
I liked writing, I wasn’t good at sports and I was kind of obnoxious. They weren’t winning qualities. No one was waging on me to succeed. Absolutely nobody. Not my friends, or teachers, or even my family.
I wasn’t taking the classic subjects that were associated with high scores, like maths and physics, I didn’t have any connections, and I was surrounded by people who had a narrative which was out of step with the times.
But the one thing I did have: I was driven. I knew no matter how many times I was knocked down, I just needed to keep getting up. It’s kind of a migrant mentality.
My parents came to Australia in the 60s, they didn’t speak a word of English, my mum had never left her home town in Italy, and never even been on a train, let alone a plane. They didn’t finish high school – not because they weren’t clever, but because they were living in post-war Italy, which was in the depths of a depression: they were expected to work… when they were 14-years-old.
My parents were (and are) resilient, and that’s what they instilled in their three daughters: resilience; discipline; never give up.
I still remember the day the HSC marks were delivered, because my principal called me in the morning to check my results. It was kind of a shock because I’d probably had two interactions with her prior to that phone call (I was really not the type of kid that was on the student council, or helped out at bake sales or whatever “connected” and “networked” kids did).