‘What is cosine of π/2? I asked quietly in mathematics to my peers to save the embarrassment of asking this simple trigonometry question to my teacher. ‘0’ everyone yelled. And so I continued the worksheet, with the thought of ‘Why does is equal 0’ circling around my head for the whole day. It was only later that I realised nobody really knew what cosine meant. Indeed, they may have known the answer but they were unaware of what the function itself actually was.
Some things are worth memorising. Whether that be your home address, phone number or your sibling’s birthday. Cosine π/2 is most definitely not one of them. Year 12 is known as the ‘defining year’ for all students. Along with that comes the dread of telling all your family and friends that you are in Year 12, as they begin to give you advice about how to live your life.
Another word that often comes up when the topic of ATAR is in conversation, is exams. Majority of students all fall into the trap of believing that exam failure means utter disaster for the rest of their careers. However, not doing your best in the exams is most definitely not associated with the idea that you are ‘not smart’ or ‘incapable’. Rather, it simply suggests that you may require a different style of being taught. Ultimately, those students on the high end of the ATAR spectrum heading into the 99 range, whilst obviously being highly skilled, may have the same lateral thinking skills as another person who had an ATAR of 70.
The bare truth is that the ATAR system only tests the ability of students to memorise content and therefore limits the amount of thinking involved. The difference between a 99 ATAR student and a 70 ATAR student is that one has a stronger ability to retain information or have photographic memory whilst the other one may find that more challenging. It is as simple as that.
Obviously, every student’s ATAR is important for the acceptance into universities or TAFE which I respect and understand, but students are not mentally challenging themselves as much as they truly should be. The thinking skills are not tested, purely the ability of students to memorise content and regurgitate it in a series of assessments and exams. This is not the true definition of intelligence.
A student could simply go to the best school, sit through an extremely boring class, ignore everything the teacher says and their explanations (because that is definitely too much thinking for them) and then memorise the results right at the end before an assessment. This would most likely give them a decent score however it barely reflects on the student’s understanding of the topics
Meanwhile, another student could think to themselves that there is much more to this than just memorising lists of results and information. Instead, they attempt to connect the ideas together, develop an understanding of how it all works on a much deeper level and see how far they can extend what they now know.
Tests such as the undergraduate medical entrance examination, formerly known as UMAT, are taken by thousands of Year 12 students across Australia with the goal of studying undergraduate medicine. This written test is comprised of 3 sections, combined to form a paper that assesses the lateral thinking skills of participants and their ability to analyse a vast range of situations. This exam is like no other. It does not focus on your ability to memorise any content- rather it tests your ability to apply real-life skills such as reading the emotions of other people and even using logical thinking skills to answer questions about texts. It is tests like these that set apart the highly intelligent students from the rest of the pack by being able to apply their lateral thinking skills in any situation.
I genuinely believe that the inclusion of tests such as UMAT, or one that encompasses the same style of thinking would benefit students largely as they are encouraged to think laterally and outside the box- a form of learning that is barely prevalent today. This higher-level cognitive process is crucial but is not being given the recognition that it deserves as everyone is blindsided by the stressful Year 12 curriculum system. The system currently awards students who ‘know all the content’ however this is not entirely fair on students who are not able to retain information like that.
Overall, it is the concept of critical thinking that was responsible for bringing us the ideas of Einstein and even Newton, right back to the inspiration of Martin Luther King Jr. Without this form of challenge, no new ground-breaking discoveries can be made such as those. Each of those people fundamentally shifted our worldview and are remembered as highly respected and influential people. It is not expected that there will be a new Steve Jobs in a few months, or that the flying car will be invented, but being a resourceful problem solver is one of the most brilliant skills to have.
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