The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Alternative Academic Pathways

It's not uncommon for parents to share the challenge they have in getting their sons to study.

" He gets his homework done, but when it comes to writing notes, committing facts to memory and practising responses under time pressured conditions, I feel like I am in a losing battle. He just doesn't seem to see the relevance. How do I get him to do more than just homework?"

I believe this is a genuine challenge that many parents face, particularly as the skills associated with exam learning lose currency in our information rich society. Why is it important to remember dates, facts, definitions and quotes when the Internet of Everything (IoE) is constantly at our fingertips through multiple devices and unlimited connection; if you've forgotten, 'just google it'.

Recent statistics indicate that parents are now more likely to worry about their child's education. This is unsurprising with recent media reporting falling literacy and numeracy standards across Australian schools, while educators argue the relevance of high stakes assessments such as ATAR, and industry joins the debate suggesting workers lack the necessary skills to cope with unprecedented change in our workplace. It is no wonder that parents are anxious for their child's future as it seems very unclear where they should put their faith.

Is it in the traditional system of rote learning, didactic teaching and practising drills or is it in the modern era of collaboration, research, inquiry and engagement? Or perhaps it is hedging our bets? I want my child to have a modern education until Year 11 and 12, where upon I need him to engage with traditional education so that he can go to university. The problem when faced with uncertainty is, we often seek safety in familiarity. Logically, if a traditional approach served its purpose for us, it should also serve a purpose for our children.

Historically, students who were poor at sitting exams or didn't have the patience or motivation for exam study simply didn't go to university. This hardly seems fair since their capacity to understand concepts, think critically, communicate ideas and relate well socially may be well placed to work in all kinds of professions. There is no doubt that in order to achieve success at university it is important that students can understand higher order concepts but how many of us, in our daily work lives, are recalling facts or ideas without the support of notes, power points or research material?

Fortunately for this generation, universities have a better understanding about the varied background of successful students, and it isn't always a strong ATAR or Diploma score. Mature age, TAFE and portfolio entry students have all demonstrated that diverse pathways offer great preparation and, in some cases, will position the learner to be more successful at university than traditional pathways. The hardest part is sometimes convincing the previous generation that this could be true. But why is that, a pathway is a pathway?

This new pathway is untried and untested so, understandably, parents see this as risky even though for some students the conventional pathway of exams may present more risks. Through educating parents, they are beginning to appreciate the many and varied options available to their son and the multiple routes he can take to gain university entry. This allows every child to plan a journey that meets their specific needs and draws on their strengths. For more information on our Alternative Academic Pathway and the options available to your son, please visit  our Course Information  website.

For further information on Alternative University Admission please visit:

Curtin University

University of Western Australia

Edith Cowan University

Murdoch University

Notre Dame University