School students should complete secondary school at the age of 17 years.

By Andrew Mackinnon

Last updated: 8th November, 2021

In Australia, as far as I’m aware, there are fourteen years of school altogether – one year of preschool, one year of kindergarten, six years of primary school from Years 1 to 6 and six years of secondary school from Years 7 to 12.

I believe that fourteen years of school from preschool and kindergarten to Year 12 under the current school system in Australia is too long.  Under the current school system, students complete Year 11 at the age of 17 years and Year 12 at the age of 18 years.  I believe that keeping students in secondary school after the age of 17 years confines them to an environment that is stultifying and ill-suited to their development as human beings. By the middle of Year 11 under the current school system, students can’t wait to finish secondary school and by the time Year 12 has commenced, they’re virtually comatose from having to remain in school for more than the thirteen years from preschool and kindergarten to the end of Year 11.

This fourteen years of school under the current school system should be shortened by one year to one year of preschool and twelve years of school from Years 1 to 12.  The one year of kindergarten under the current school system should be abolished.

Students should commence preschool at the same age of 4 years at the start of the year.

The following year, students should commence Year 1 of primary school at the age of 5 years at the start of the year instead of commencing kindergarten at the age of 5 years at the start of the year under the current school system.

Students should complete Years 1 to 12 of school one year earlier than they do under the current school system.

Students should complete Year 12 one year earlier at the age of 17 years instead of at the age of 18 years under the current school system.

This proposed school system can be summarised as follows:

> Preschool for students aged 4 years at the start of the year

> Year 1 in primary school for students aged 5 years at the start of the year

> Year 2 in primary school for students aged 6 years at the start of the year

> Year 3 in primary school for students aged 7 years at the start of the year

> Year 4 in primary school for students aged 8 years at the start of the year

> Year 5 in primary school for students aged 9 years at the start of the year

> Year 6 in primary school for students aged 10 years at the start of the year

> Year 7 in secondary school for students aged 11 years at the start of the year

> Year 8 in secondary school for students aged 12 years at the start of the year

> Year 9 in secondary school for students aged 13 years at the start of the year

> Year 10 in secondary school for students aged 14 years at the start of the year

> Year 11 in secondary school for students aged 15 years at the start of the year

> Year 12 in secondary school for students aged 16 years at the start of the year

It is critically important to strictly limit the amount of homework assigned to students in each year of school so that students are not overburdened by too much homework.

Homework is indispensable for the cognitive and intellectual development of school students.  The reality is that students who do not complete their homework do not develop cognitively and intellectually to anywhere near their full potential.  The purpose of homework is for students to learn by reading their assigned textbooks as directed by their teachers, to practice and improve the skills they have been learning in class by completing exercises as directed by their teachers and to study for upcoming tests and exams.

School students have the admirable responsibility of not only completing schoolwork at school but also taking schoolwork home with them and completing it at home as homework.  This responsibility should be respected by their teachers and not exploited.  The lives of school students outside of school hours and their time outside of school hours should also be respected by strictly limiting the amount of homework that is assigned to students.

There should be no homework or study at home required of students in preschool or in Years 1 and 2 in primary school.

The amount of homework required of students in Year 3 in primary school should not exceed the equivalent of 12 minutes of homework per school day, totalling a maximum of 1 hour of homework per school week. There should be no study at home required of students in Year 3.

The amount of homework required of students in Year 4 in primary school should not exceed the equivalent of 18 minutes of homework per school day, totalling a maximum of 1.5 hours of homework per school week. There should be no study at home required of students in Year 4.

The amount of homework required of students in Year 5 in primary school should not exceed the equivalent of 24 minutes of homework per school day, totalling a maximum of 2 hours of homework per school week. There should be no study at home required of students in Year 5.

The amount of homework required of students in Year 6 in primary school should not exceed the equivalent of 30 minutes of homework per school day, totalling a maximum of 2.5 hours of homework per school week. There should be no study at home required of students in Year 6.

In Year 7 in secondary school, all students should be required to study English, Mathematics, Science, Geography and History.

In Years 8, 9 and 10 in secondary school, all students should be required to study English, Mathematics, Science, Geography and History, together with their choice of only one elective subject, such as Commerce, German, French, Industrial Arts, Music and Visual Arts.

The amount of homework and study at home required of students in Year 7 in secondary school should not exceed the equivalent of 36 minutes of homework and study at home per school day, totalling a maximum of 3 hours of homework and study at home per school week. This is the equivalent of a maximum of 36 minutes of homework and study at home per school week for each of the five subjects that students in Year 7 study.

The amount of homework and study at home required of students in Year 8 in secondary school should not exceed the equivalent of 42 minutes of homework and study at home per school day, totalling a maximum of 3.5 hours of homework and study at home per school week. This is the equivalent of a maximum of 35 minutes of homework and study at home per school week for each of the six subjects that students in Year 8 study.

The amount of homework and study at home required of students in Year 9 in secondary school should not exceed the equivalent of 48 minutes of homework and study at home per school day, totalling a maximum of 4 hours of homework and study at home per school week. This is the equivalent of a maximum of 40 minutes of homework and study at home per school week for each of the six subjects that students in Year 9 study.

The amount of homework and study at home required of students in Year 10 in secondary school should not exceed the equivalent of 54 minutes of homework and study at home per school day, totalling a maximum of 4.5 hours of homework and study at home per school week.  This is the equivalent of a maximum of 45 minutes of homework and study at home per school week for each of the six subjects that students in Year 10 study.

The purpose of limiting the amount of homework and study at home required of students in Years 7 to 10 in secondary school is to limit the intensity of the workload on students so that they have enough free time outside of school, homework and study at home to spend how they choose, such as by working to earn money and socialising with their friends.

Limiting the burden of homework and study at home on students in Years 7 to 10 in secondary school will free up their afternoons after school to earn money doing jobs such as mowing lawns and washing cars, as well as to spend time with their friends socialising. This will give secondary school students an important opportunity to earn money and save for their futures. The really smart students will invest their savings while they’re in secondary school in order to make their savings grow. This will enable them to make a much needed start towards accumulating the money required to later buy some land on which to build a dwelling to live in so that they won’t have to pay rent when they get older and move out of home.

The School Certificate that early school leavers rely upon as their leaving qualification would be held at the end of Year 10 in secondary school when the students have mostly attained the age of 15 years under this proposed shortened school system, instead of the age of 16 years under the current school system.  This means that early school leavers would be one year younger under this proposed shortened school system than under the current school system.

In years 11 and 12 in secondary school, all students should study a total of six subjects, being English, Mathematics, one science subject (chosen out of Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics, et cetera), Geography, History and their elective subject from years 8, 9 and 10 or a continuing subject such as Economics for the elective subject of Commerce.

There should only be one version of each subject offered for study, such as 2 Unit Mathematics, not multiple versions of each subject offered for study, such as 2 Unit, 3 Unit and 4 Unit Mathematics with increasing levels of difficulty.  The purpose of restricting each subject to one version is to limit the intensity of the workload on students so that they have enough free time outside of school, homework and study at home to spend how they choose, such as by working to earn money and socialising with their friends.

The amount of homework and study at home required of students in Year 11 in secondary school should not exceed the equivalent of 60 minutes of homework and study at home per school day, totalling a maximum of 5 hours of homework and study at home per school week.  This is the equivalent of a maximum of 50 minutes of homework and study at home per school week for each of the six subjects that students in Year 11 study.

The amount of homework and study at home required of students in Year 12 in secondary school should not exceed the equivalent of 66 minutes of homework and study at home per school day, totalling a maximum of 5.5 hours of homework and study at home per school week. This is the equivalent of a maximum of 55 minutes of homework and study at home per school week for each of the six subjects that students in Year 12 study.

The purpose of limiting the amount of homework and study at home required of students in Years 11 and 12 in secondary school is to limit the intensity of the workload on students so that they have enough free time outside of school, homework and study at home to spend how they choose, such as by working to earn money and socialising with their friends.

Limiting the burden of homework and study at home on students in Years 11 and 12 in secondary school will free up their afternoons after school to earn money doing jobs such as mowing lawns and washing cars, as well as to spend time with their friends socialising. This will give secondary school students an important opportunity to earn money and save for their futures. The really smart students will invest their savings while they’re in secondary school in order to make their savings grow. This will enable them to make a much needed start towards accumulating the money required to later buy some land on which to build a dwelling to live in so that they won’t have to pay rent when they get older and move out of home.

Students complete Year 12 in secondary school at the age of 17 years under this proposed shortened school system instead of the age of 18 years under the current school system.

Students should no longer apply for a place at university before they finish Year 12 in secondary school.  It is completely unrealistic for students to be expected to know what they want to study at university before they have even finished Year 12.  Applying for a place at university before they finish Year 12 also places extra, unwelcome pressure on them at a time when they’re already under a lot of pressure studying for their final exams in Year 12.  Applying for a place at university before they finish Year 12 also psychologically commits them to further study at university, often commencing in the following year, at a time when they have almost finished fourteen years of school under the current school system, including the year of preschool and the year of kindergarten.  It is grossly unfair to place a cultural expectation on students in Year 12 of further study at university, often commencing in the following year, when they’ve almost finished a marathon run of fourteen years of school under the current school system.

Under the current school system, many of the students who apply for a place at university while they’re in Year 12 do so not because they actually want to attend university in the year following year 12, but because they feel pressured to conform to an expectation placed on them by their school, their teachers and their parents to apply for a place at university while they’re in Year 12.  It is very important that students in Year 12 are relieved of this expectation and pressure that has been unfairly placed upon them.

Students should be prohibited from attending university before they have attained the age of 18 years, which will mostly occur in the year following their last year of school, being Year 12.

This provides students with the opportunity to do something unrelated to study during the year or years between finishing Year 12 in secondary school and commencing study at university, if they choose to attend university.  After all, they will have spent thirteen years from preschool to Year 12 at school under the proposed school system, so it’s important for them to spend at least a year away from study for the sake of their emotional, psychological and physiological health.

Students are notified of their Year 12 final results in December of Year 12 in secondary school or in the month following in January of the following year.

Students who want to attend university in the second year after their last year of secondary school, being Year 12, would apply for a place at university during the second half of the year following their last year of school, which is at least several months after they have been notified of their Year 12 final results in December of their last year of school, or in the month following in January of the following year.  Importantly, this provides them with sufficient time to consider what university course they want to apply for.  Their first experience of life outside of school in the first year following their last year of school, being Year 12, will assist them in deciding what university course they want to apply for.

Naturally, students do not have to attend university in the second year after their last year of secondary school, being Year 12.  They can choose to attend it in some future year, to not attend it at all or to embark on some other form of vocational training other than a university course.

Postscript:

I worked very hard in secondary school. I finished secondary school in 1990 at the age of 18 years in the top 0.85% of the state of New South Wales in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) – 446th out of 54,338 candidates.  My “1990 NSW HSC Candidate Number” is 703421.

As a result of choosing the elective subjects German, French and Music in Years 8, 9 and 10 and therefore not studying Geography and History in Years 8, 9 and 10, I finished secondary school ignorant and uneducated.

I hold a Bachelor of Economics from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where I studied after finishing secondary school.

It is difficult for any person to reach their full potential in adulthood without a proper education in Geography and History in secondary school.

It was not until I reached the age of about 42 years that I had learned enough about Geography and History to feel as though I had caught up on what I had missed out on learning in Geography and History in Years 8, 9 and 10 in secondary school as a result of my poor choice of elective subjects.

It is for these reasons that I strongly believe that the study of Geography and History should be compulsory for all secondary school students in Years 8, 9 and 10, in addition to Year 7.

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