Dr Tony Richardson (PhD) is a freelance educational specialist with over 35 years of teaching and research experience. Over the past 10 years Tony has been an education consultant for various government and non-government bodies, within Southeast Asia, focusing on education; primary, secondary; tertiary and VET. He is currently the Project Director for the Integration of Financial Literacy into Cambodian government schools. Tony has co-authored a number of peer-reviewed journal articles on topics relating to teachers, learners and pedagogy across several international landscapes, and also co-authored a book on preservice teacher education. He has previously presented, and continues to present, at international conferences on education topics throughout Southeast Asia.
With the finalization of the high school year in Australia the next phase of learning for several students is the transition into university. For many, this transition is straight forward, via direct entry into their course of choice. For example, movement from high school into a course reflecting their first preference; Nursing, Teaching, or Engineering. In most cases these course preferences usually align with a student’s career aspirations.
If we view learning as a journey comprised of many different pathways there are those who will follow a clear and well-defined learning pathway, as outlined above. However, for others this pathway is not so well defined and requires further time and effort.
Within an Australian context this further time and effort is reflected in, for example, students being presented with entry into courses that could allow them to articulate into the course that they had aspired to first enter but could not, which is usually predicated on a low ATAR score. For example, one student receives an ATAR score of 97.0, while another a score of 90.0. The ATAR scores for each student reflect their relative positions within the cohort of all students who received an ATAR score in that school year.
These scores are used by universities to place students within courses. A student, for example, may require an ATAR score of 95.00 for entry into a Medical Imaging degree or 70.00 for entry into a Bachelor of Education degree. However, universities can provide students with a second pathway of entry into their initial course selection by students enrolling in a transitioning course.
The focus of this paper relates to providing some possible questions for students to think about before engaging in a transitioning pathway.
Australian universities have devised a process whereby the student can, if they wish, still pursue a career, for example, in Radiography by enrolling in a transitioning course. The purpose of this course is if the student completes the course, they can then apply for entry, for example, into a 4-year Medical Imaging degree. Consequently, the learning pathway the student undertakes is a bit longer. The student completes a 3-year transitioning degree, and then applies to enter the course that was their initial course of entry 3 years ago. Therefore, with respect to the example outlined above, if the student’s career goal is Radiography, there is at least a decade of study.
While the need exists to assist students in continuing their learning journey/s possibly students should also focus on understanding the consequences of their actions, by continuing to pursue their initial career pathway, via the process outlined above.
Providing students with options, through alternative pathways into what was initially their selected course is no doubt commendable. However, for the student, are they fully cognisant of the possible sacrifices linked to this process?
In nearly all cases universities, within an Australian context, have a general course that students can undertake to transition into a course they failed to enter. This general course, if there is an emphasis on, for example, doctor, physiotherapist, radiologist etc., might be a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science. Consequently, universities have cohorts of students undertaking degrees in Biomedical Science to provide these students with future access to careers they were initially not accepted into due to low ATAR scores. Therefore, the university could argue that the completion of a Biomedical Science degree was used to test the student’s future career and educational acumen.
Generally, one of the key caveats for students who undertake the above learning journey is students must attain a GPA (grade point average) of at least 5.5 or better out of a possible 7, at the completion of their degree.
The approach outlined above could be viewed as a positive move in providing students with alternatives pathways to continue their learning journey and therefore, possible achieve their career goal. However, some questions need to be asked about this alternative process.
Given that students require a GPA of at least a 5.5 receiving a 4 in a subject near the end of their degree, for example, the final semester, could have a sever impact on the student’s capacity to attain at least a 5.5? For example, are there subjects within the transitioning course whereby, students regularly fail or in most cases attain a 4, with very few students gaining a 6 or better?
How many students who complete the transitioning course enter their initial course of choice? Do not forget these transitioning students are also competing against students, 4 years down the track, who have through their initial educational acumen received entry into the course that the transiting students are also aspiring to enter. Therefore, the transiting student is competing against the students who have already established their educational acumen by gaining direct entry.
In essence how many places, within the transitioning process, are set aside for transiting students, and how many students who enter a transitioning course eventually attain entry into the course they initially failed to enter?
If learning is a journey, and the role of universities is to possibly help students move through that learning journey, then what roles do universities need to play in helping students prepare for undertaking their individual learning journeys?
Most students will generally graduate high school, in Australia, by 18 years of age. Does someone who is 18 years old really know what career pathway they want to follow having just completed high school? Will the 18-year-old in 2023 be the same individual in 2027?
Simply providing students with alternatives pathways may assist in ensuring that some students can still see opportunities to attain their career goal but the question is; At what cost to the student? Are students engaged in these transitioning courses provided with enough information about the challenges associated with undertaking a learning journey dependent on maintaining a career focus for possibly a decade?
Before engaging in a transition pathway possibly students need ask questions focusing on the present before making career decisions about their future?