The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the means by which Universities across Australia judge students. It is the often the key factor in admissions into further education and is also the cause of countless anxiety attacks, sleepless nights, and arguments among family members. But beyond that, the ATAR actually encourages students NOT to help each other.
Using a rank instead of a grade instantly encourages competition
Which is bad for the actual students. I have come across countless students who are loath to share their knowledge with other students (especially ones outside their school) because they see the ATAR as a competition. Which it is. By definition, the ATAR is a race. Nobody wants to help someone beat them.
But what does this mean?
It means that students are missing out on some hugely important lessons, due to being forced to compete with each other.
What happened to teamwork?
One of the most underrated and underutilised study techniques is to build a study group. This allows students to help each other succeed and also provides a valuable support network. On top of this, students can further their own skills by teaching their peers.
But one of the reasons that study groups aren’t utilised properly is that students see their classmates as their competition.
And they’re not wrong about this. It’s not the fault of the students. The system is literally built to work against teamwork.
So, how do we change it?
With the system engineered to discourage students in helping others, schools, parents and peers need to take it upon themselves. Surely the life skills and social obligations should “outrank” an outdated scoring system?
While it may appear that it is in the students’ best interest to “beat” everyone else, the ramifications of this style of thinking is frightening.
The benefits of helping other students far outweight the risk of losing a few decimal places on an ATAR (especially considering no one cares about them 3 months later anyway).
Students who are willing to help their peers tend to accomplish much more. They often find their own understanding strengthened by the process of teaching, and the social and teamwork skills they develop through this process become life-long skills that far outlive their rank.
We need to stop seeing the ATAR as a competition, and instead recognise it for what it is; an outdated ranking mechanism that pits students against each other.
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