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The Higher School Certificate, or more commonly known as HSC, is the certification that is awarded to senior high school students who have successfully finished Year 12 of their studies in New South Wales.
Its management and implementation are currently overseen by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).
Back in mid-2016, the NSW Minister of Education declared that syllabus reforms shall be carried out for Year 11 and 12 students starting from 2019.
Consequently, the changes to the English, Science, and Mathematics curricula are bound to have a substantial impact on the students who will take the first HSC test after the curriculum reform.
It is then no longer surprising why many students would go for a HSC English tutor or similar review classes. After all, if you could increase your chances of getting great HSC results, it’s definitely an opportunity worth taking.
The Need for a New Curriculum
The change in curriculum has been decided mainly because of NSW’s stronger HSC standards. This is to ensure that learning experiences will continually be optimised for the students of the new generation.
Of course, studies have been done over a long period of time to back up the argument for such reforms. Hence, one can trust that the education system will see to it that students will appreciate concepts that are relevant to the current times, without forgetting about the important impact of the past.
Changes in English
The new English curriculum has restructured its modules to require fewer texts. Mandatory readings now put a heavier focus on literary texts such as prose fiction, drama/poetry, and Shakespearean literature. Some texts have been moved to other modules, while other texts have been completely taken off (e.g. Hamlet).
It has also been designed to encourage students to engage with the required texts in a deeper manner. Gone are the days when students can get away with exam questions by writing a default, memorised essay. For instance, questions may now involve the texts’ compositional elements.
A common module named “Texts and Human Experience” will now replace “Area of Study” from the old HSC. This requires students to study a prescribed main text, a related text, and a selection of other texts.
Additionally, the creative writing component that used to be under “Area of Study” now belongs to a new module called “The Craft of Writing.” Here, students must read various short texts and then write about what they have learned in a creative, discursive, or persuasive way.
Changes in the Sciences
The Science curriculum of HSC has changed both its content and concepts. It no longer concentrates on Prescribed Focus Areas (PFAs) nor the “Science as a Human Endeavour” subjects. The content has become more discipline-based – the kind that will encourage students to pursue STEM courses at the university.
Students are required to conduct a Depth Study that can either be done individually or in a group. The time allocation for it is 15 hours every year. It can be any type of research as long as the teacher agrees on its feasibility. Depth Studies should be able to help students accomplish the following things:
- Learn how certain scientific concepts play out in real life and consolidate whatever they have learnt.
- Hone their skills and develop their competence in them.
- Gain confidence on the subject matter, in their ability to carry out experiments, and in themselves.
- Enhance their creativity with the help of scientific studies.
The following are some of the changes in the individual Science subjects:
- Chemistry: Inclusion of gas laws, Hess’ law, and calculation of equilibrium constants. New content touches on current atomic model theories, organic compound analyses, as well as analytical techniques.
- Biology: Enhanced focus on concept development, which includes using evidence and other existing concepts to understand more complex biological processes.
- Physics: Thermodynamics is now back, and it will be discussed under the energy module. Analyses now encourages the use of more mathematical principles to illustrate or explain concepts.
Changes in Mathematics
Integral and differential calculus will still remain the central focus of the Advanced Mathematics and its extension courses. By 2019, Statistics will also become part of those courses.
Extra content about differential equations has been added as well. Vector geometry will now be discussed instead of coordinate and Euclidean geometry.
The concepts that will be taught in Statistics include discrete and continuous random variables. Associated probability applications will also be touched upon.
Aside from playing a huge role in business and finance, Statistics is also a significant tool in the applied sciences. Numbers have a way of integrating concepts into something explainable, which is why NESA has decided that Statistics is a practical addition to the senior high school Mathematics courses.
Keeping Up with the Curricula Reforms
To ensure that students will be able to keep up with the reforms, many tutorial centres have redesigned and restructured their courses for both Year 11 and Year 12 students.
This will help them feel more prepared for the HSC exam way before they even have to take it. They may also opt to join accelerated courses if they wish to learn lessons in advance.
Tutorial centres usually hold five to eight week HSC tutorial programs before the HSC itself. This is to help students perfect their exam techniques before they face the real thing. It also helps them figure out their weak spots and work on eliminating them.
During those sessions, they will get a number of mock exams that replicate the difficulty level of the HSC. By the time they take the test, they will have known how to handle most things.
Completing the HSC
The HSC is the culmination of your entire school experience and the highest secondary school certification that can be awarded to you in New South Wales.
Naturally, exam time will be a stressful time for many students. After all, your exam comprises 50 per cent of your final HSC grade for a particular course.
With the right preparation, however, you are bound to do much better than you initially expected. It’s all about knowing what to face in those crucial exam moments.
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