Think you’ve got it tough sitting at home watching the news, rationing toilet paper and worrying about the future?
Try being a current Queensland year 12 student.
If you are one of the state’s 50,000+ year 12 students, you must feel like you’ve been robbed.
This was supposed to be your year – arguably the most formative year of your life where you finally gained your social, academic and economic freedoms. But as it turns out, most social, academic and economic freedoms have been suspended until further notice.
This was meant to be the year of school formals, driving your friends around with your new drivers’ licence, parties, sports team trips, schoolies week, and getting the guts to ask out your crush.
How is any of this meant to happen while you are in lockdown with your parents?
This was meant to be the year where you took a part time job, earned a bit of coin, and splashed some cash on festivals and shoes.
Now you’ve suddenly found yourself locked out of those minimum-wage retail and hospitality jobs, stuck at home, broke.
And this was going to be the biggest academic year of your life so far.
We’re talking final year exams, external ATAR testing, university preferences, TAFE applications, academic awards, school captaincies and school leadership roles.
Right now you are probably wondering how COVID-19 disrupts all of this, and also why has the Class of 2020 been the educational piñata year after year, taking all the hits but not spilling any rewards your way?
No, you are not imagining it.
Throughout your entire journey from Prep to senior high school you and your year have been the subject of repeated academic disruptions.
Back in 2008 you were the first full wave of students to enter the compulsory prep year - the guinea pigs for an education system unfamiliar with the new concept.
Being the first year of the national curriculum you jumped straight to year five mathematics (and other subjects) when you were still in year four, with you and your amazing teachers scrambling to catch up.
You were the first group of year 7 kids to be removed from primary school and dropped into our high school system that wasn’t quite as ready for the learning and infrastructure needs of pre-teens like it is today.
As year 12 students in 2020 you will be the first students in Queensland expected to negotiate the new external ATAR examinations as we say goodbye to the old OP system.
And if you hadn’t already been through enough to reach your most vital, final year of schooling, along comes a global pandemic, a societal shutdown, an economic calamity, and an unprecedented interruption to your education.
No adults can understand what you are going through because no other peace-time year 12 school cohort has ever had to deal with anything like this before.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t help.
As a university Vice-Chancellor, I spend a lot of time talking to schools and students about their post-school options.
Here are some of the most common questions I am being asked by year 12 students over the past days and weeks:
The virus is already impacted my schooling. Will it impact my plans to go to university or TAFE?
Absolutely not. Zero chance. A big nooope on that one. We get that it can be difficult to study year 12 from home. We get that not all homes and families are the same, and some of you will be disadvantaged by this. But if you have tertiary education aspirations, and you are prepared to push yourself this year, put the work in, and seek help and support from your teachers and your schools, then you will find all sorts of flexible arrangements waiting for you at universities and TAFEs.
Should I just give up on 2020 now and repeat year 12 next year?
This is not a good option for most students. Picture yourself and some of your friends restarting year 12 next year alongside everyone who is in year 11 today, in crowded classrooms, competing for the limited spots at university and TAFE afterwards.
Should I just park 2020 in the shade, kick back, leave school at the end of the year and take 2021 as it comes?
I would come up with a stronger plan than that. The jobs market next year will be tough. Experts are forecasting record high unemployment levels, so you’d be competing for low-skilled positions alongside hundreds of thousands of more experienced and higher-skilled workers (many with families to support) who were made unemployed this year. If university isn’t an option for you, I’d consider vocational training at TAFE to give yourself higher skills and stronger employment prospects.
How can things get any worse for me?
Easy. Simply neglect your year 12 studies and blow the next six months on Netflix, Xbox and TikTok. Seriously, worst possible choice, and completely unnecessary.
Your teachers are working around the clock on solutions to keep your studies going at home.
They may not have all the answers in place today, but you should know this: Queensland has one of the most advanced education systems in the world, staffed by the best teachers on the planet.
They are currently deploying every resource, program and expert into finding a way for you to continue receiving a world class education for the weeks and months to come.
Right now, universities and TAFEs all over the state are working on innovative ways to support and enrol year 12 school leavers whose education may be interrupted by COVID-19.
My own university is working directly with school principals to identify eager students who might benefit from early enrolment processes.
I have been holding webinars with schools to find creative solutions to keep your study aspirations on track, like allowing you to Start University Now , or finding ultra-flexible ways to enrol.
The universities and TAFEs don’t have every answer in place today, but they will be ready for you soon.
University and TAFE will absolutely remain an option for you.
But while your teachers, universities and TAFEs figure this out – and they will – they are going to need you to keep your eye on the prize.
- Don’t treat 2020 as a Netflix vacation.
- Be patient with your teachers; they have been asked to do the extraordinary and they are focused entirely on you.
- Stay in touch with your universities and TAFEs; reach out to them and they will offer you information, flexibility and support, even while you are still in year 12.
- Use technology to check in with your friends and classmates regularly; the coming weeks will be made easier by you looking after one another.
- Be forgiving of your parents, these are stressful times for them as well.
- But most importantly, stay on track with your studies and look after yourself. Don’t waste time worrying about things beyond your control – the system will find ways to make adjustments for you. Instead, focus on the things you can control, including what you do with today.
Remember, yours is the cohort that has seen more oddness embedded into your 12-year educational journey than any other.
Because of this you have developed a resilience you probably didn’t know you had.
You will have everything you need to make it through year 12 successfully this year – just stay on track, and keep off the couch.
Professor Nick Klomp, Vice-Chancellor and President of CQUniversity Australia.