Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board
Educational reform – VCE/ Victorian Certificate of Education
The VISE educational reform was followed by a second complete overhaul of senior secondary school curriculum and assessment. In 1986 a new authority, the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board (VCAB) set up nine Fields of Studies Committees (FOSCs) for all areas of teaching. Aleksandra Ceferin was appointed to the Field of Studies Committee for Languages Other than English (FOSC LOTE). She was one of the twenty-four members, comprising secondary teachers, experts and theorists on a number of languages.
The task of the FOSC LOTE was to devise a teaching and assessment approach extending over the two senior years, Year 11 and 12.
The process of course development, assessment strategies and state-wide consultation was to take five years. From it emerged a two-year senior studies course for all the areas of curriculum, the so-called “Victorian Certificate of Education” or “VCE”.
The radical educational reform that the process initiated was exciting and challenging. It represented a new way of teaching and assessing. It was to prepare the students for both entry into the world of employment and for further studies. The foundations were laid out in the document referred to generally as Ministerial Paper 6, with the title Curriculum Development and Planning in Victoria. Published in 1984 by the Minister for Education, it was the last of the series of ministerial papers on education started in 1982, aimed at a thorough review of the whole educational system, the way it functions and prepares the young for entry into modern society. It was the definitive document and the guideline for the process of Victorian education reform which was to shatter conservative practices and lead to rethinking of assessment and its function in knowledge and skills acquisition in secondary schooling. It outlined in detail the kind of education which should be provided if all young people were to participate fully and productively in a rapidly changing world.
As a basis for a review of education it stated that:
Students need an education which broadens experience, opens up new opportunities, and ensures that students will succeed in reaching the highest standards of excellence.
The guidelines inaugurated an era of collaborative decision-making which would include teachers, parents and students and ensure access and success to all students. They should have access to educational experiences that are challenging, purposeful and comprehensive. All children should experience success at school. They should be assisted in developing a sense of themselves as learners, learn in a variety of ways and in a variety of settings.
The curriculum must cover seven main areas of learning: language and mathematics, the world and its people, participation in Australian society, literature and the arts, personal fulfillment, technical competence, science and technology and the environment.
The paper also expressed strong support for language learning. Students should acquire proficiency in another language used in the Australian community and develop an awareness of international community, the interdependence of different countries, peoples and economies.
New Slovenian course
By 1990 the new structure of the curriculum was completed and the process of familiarisation with the new system by the educational community began. Next came development of VCE courses, undertaken by groups of teachers under guidance of VCE and LOTE consultants. A. Ceferin was a LOTE consultant during this period and actively participated in the process of implementation – as VCE adviser and workshop leader, and also as a VCE course developer of sample courses for VCE Slovenian, VCE German and Course Development Support Materials.
Subsequently Slovenian and German course samples were used in the process of individual language course development across the state of Victoria. The Slovenian sample course was used as a model for course development within the Victorian School of Languages. The school at this time had 650 teachers and 39 langauges with a major task of professional and course development to carry out.
NAFLaSSL Languages (National Assessment Framework for Languages at Senior Secondary Level) or State Cooperation Languages
Australia in the beginning of nineties had committed itself to equality of languages, equal opportunity, access for all its citizens to their native language. It obviously could not afford to give equal support to all of them. The decison was made to economize. International languages – Asian and European would be supported and funded, so would the larger community languages. In Victoria the major international languages were identified as French, German, Japanese and Indonesian. The major community languages requiring support according to numerical strength were Italian, Modern Greek, Chinese and Vietnamese.
The remaining languages were supported by funding provided to the Victorian School of Languages and the so-called ethnic schools. The decision regarding the VCE accreditation and the administrative costs involved in running the annual Year 12 VCE written assessment, was taken at the federal level. The nineteen so-called minor languages, including all Slavic languages were to have a common VCE assessment on an interstate basis – as “interstate cooperation languages” with common written assessment. There was some hope that this first step would lead to further shared and standardized interstate assessment and further saving in costs as well as achieving similar standards across the states. In the meantime this was a solution towards implementing the principle that all languages and communities be treated equally and all students be given equal opportunity to complete the language of their choice at cooperation languages . VCE level
Slovenian became one of the nineteen NAFLaSSL languages in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. The Senior Studies Boards in each state took the responsibility for a number of languages. In 1989 and 1990 there were more HSC enrolments for Slovenian in New South Wales, so that state took over the responsibility for the Slovenian written examination paper. In all other respects each state had its own HSC courses and prepared their own oral examinations.
The methodolgy developed in Victoria – the thematic integrated approach (language, text types, grammar, theme), clearly defined work requirements and the assessment process began for Victorian Year 11 students in 1991.
The two year VCE course was constructed in 4 semester units, each with its strictly determined tasks, based on four different language skill areas.
The principle governing the specific tasks, was that they were realistic tasks, used in the real world (outside the classroom) and based on real skills, which were extended and broadened over the four semester units. The four skills were defined as:
-Speaking to inform
-Focusing on performance
Speaking to inform skills area included a conversation, interview, discussion and presentation of a topic. Focusing on performance included announcements, dramatised reading and a performance. Writing included personal and imaginative writing, informative writing, persuasive or evaluative writing. Reorganising information included changing a passage into a different discourse
Examination Paper Slovenian 1992 form, using information heard and read, investigating a topic and writing a report. Paper 1 & Paper 2
In addition students were given extended time to complete a folio of pieces for assessment, and prepared for an oral examination including conversation, report and discussion and a role-play. At the end of the year they sat for an examination which tested all the skills that they built up over the four units.
It was a great new approach to the study of languages. Students were given a sense of what it means to communicate and use the language in social interaction. For example the students in 1991 were given as a task in Unit 1 a conversation to be prepared by two or three students working together. The situation was a chance meeting in a chosen setting between the students and a person from Slovenia, who heard them speaking in Slovenian. They expressed amazement, introduced themselves, exchanged some information about where they were from and whom they were visiting. Each group of students came up with their own creative concept and situation. For example one took a young visitor from Slovenia around the Slovenian Religious and Cultural Centre and told him about some of the cultural acitivities there. The students were given an opportunity to be creative and they used it to the full. The resulting role-plays were interesting and entertaining.
Memorable from those first years was also the required interview. The teacher used the events taking place in Slovenia to set the interview task. Students were to interview a person who had either just returned from Slovenia, or call someone on telephone, or speak to someone who has been in contact with Slovenia regarding the events. This was a good example how personal interest and a real situation could be used in the new system to enable the student to enjoy the task and give them a feeling that they can communicate in the language.
The principle of integration and contextualisation was used to good purpose in all areas of the Slovenian course. Personal letters to relatives were written and sent, short articles on the topic of Slovenian studies were published in Slovenian publications. Informative texts about events in Slovenia were read and discussed and then used to extend the skill of reorganising information.
The first group of VCE students completed the new reformed two-year course in November 1992. Since then we have had enrolments every year. Several Bosnian students who came to Australia via Slovenia, where they attended school, also enrolled in Slovenian VCE.