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Rankling in the ranking

By Nita Temmerman - posted Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The OP or Overall Position is the tertiary entrance score measure used in Queensland. It provides a statewide rank order of students based on achievement in recognised subjects studied for the Queensland Senior Certificate.

A scale of one to 25 is used, with those students receiving an OP of 1 considered to be among the top 2 per cent of students in Queensland overall. OPs are used by tertiary institutions such as universities to set quotas, especially in degree programs where there is high demand for places.

This means that the OP is the main determinant of what the minimum acceptable academic standard of achievement is for entry to university programs for those coming direct from Year 12.


Success at school like success at university, however, is about much more than academic achievement. This is made evident in schools where leadership positions are conferred on students whose accomplishments include cultural and community contributions, not solely academic success.

Today's Generation Y is also much more aware of and willing to be involved in community activities to effect social change than previous generations. Some universities, such as the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), is formally recognising this with an award (linked to the USQ graduate attributes), firmly focused on acknowledging individual students involved in activities that have a social dimension, such as volunteering programs.

So, how adequate is the use of a student's academic performance at the end of Year 12, to determine how good a teacher they will make?

Does the OP recognise those essential attributes required of teachers for today's and future schools, such as a committed enthusiasm for teaching and an encouraging mind-set towards children? How do we account for those university applicants, who when provided with the opportunity to complete a teaching program based on criteria other than their academic performance, have gone on to a "successful" teaching career?

Could reliance on a single indicator, namely the OP, mean that potentially excellent future teachers are being excluded from the profession? (A profession that loses up to 25 per cent of its ranks after only five years in the job.)

Some universities already implement broadened selection criteria and many have alternative entry pathway options as part of their equity and access agenda. However, adoption of alternative selection strategies such as interviews is hugely expensive, given the number of students who apply for the number of university places available.


Of course not all students who enter teacher education programs at university, including at USQ, are school leavers; in fact the latter accounts for about 40 per cent of total enrolments in undergraduate degree programs within the USQ Faculty of Education.
There are an increasing number of students who are mature-aged as well as those who enrol in the one-year Graduate Diploma of Learning and Teaching as an end-on teacher education program.

For the majority of mature-aged students, selection includes recognition of prior experience and often an interview and referee reports.

The primary entry selection indicator for school leavers, however, remains school academic performance.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on January 23, 2008.

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About the Author

Professor Nita Temmerman is Pro Vice Chancellor Academic Quality and Dean Faculty of Education USQ.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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