The Victorian Student Representative Council’s (VicSRC) annual Congress consistently sparks momentum within the education sector. Congress unites secondary students from across Victoria to plan action that will help solve the top issues in the Victorian education system, as voted by students.
Never before has VicSRC held Congress in a remote setting. Pivot’s Student Voice Advocate, Wren Gillett, has attended the event in previous years, but always in person. Wren herself had questioned if the online forum would deliver the same impactful experience to this years’ attendees, despite the shift to online. Luckily for all involved, the VicSRC successfully replicated the dynamic explosion and amplification of student voice. The forum was a great success, culminating in the presentation of VicSRC’s top ten priority areas for the executive committee of 2021.
VicSRC Top 10 Priorities of 2021
- Mental Health Education
- Real World Skills
- Fair Go VCE
- Igniting Indigenous Inclusion
- Engagement, Enjoyment, Endeavour
- Educate Then Express
- Students With A Voice
- Sustainability In Schools
- Inadequate Sex Ed
- Too Much Focus On Academics
Each focus area is a result of hours of collaborative thinking, and while these priority areas are centered around the Victorian model of education, everyone can learn something from this list.
Mental Health Education
This year has been disempowering for many young people. It therefore comes as no surprise that Mental Health Education was voted as the top priority area by students for this year’s Congress. 2020 has exacerbated the prevalence of mental health distress for a lot of young people, and now students are advocating for consistent and effective mental health education, particularly for years 7-9.
Although collectively we still have a long way to go in ensuring well being initiatives are proactive rather than reactive, it’s reassuring to see mental health is being taken more seriously by both students and school leaders. We hope through initiatives like this, the post COVID-19 era will see some significant student-led changes in this space.
Student Voice and Agency
There is a remarkable push from students for schools to embrace a strong sense of student agency. In fact, three of the ten priority areas make explicit mention of greater student involvement in the decision making processes that affect them: Engagement, Enjoyment, Endeavour, Students With A Voice and Too Much Focus on Academics.
The three priority areas champion student agency both in the classroom and on major school policy decision making boards, and promote the idea that greater student involvement will help to both empower and engage/re-engage students. Too Much Focus on Academics emphasises the need for students to be agents in their own learning, steering away from a one-size-fits-all approach to education his priority highlights that students learn in different ways, also encouraging teacher-student partnerships that help to develop learning environments and structures that are adaptable and accessible for every student.
While COVID-19 has presented us with many problems, it has emphasised each student has lived a different experience of remote learning. Someloved learning independently from a screen, where others found this model of learning extremely ineffective. As we move forward, our learning environments must be more flexible to accommodate a greater and more diverse student body.
Fair Go VCE.
Students said that “the current VCE system doesn’t recognise students as individuals”, calling for a model of assessment that examines a broader conception of intelligence. Additionally, students raised their concerns over the current scaling system, noting that it currently marks up STEM subjects and marks down arts subjects meaning students focus on pleasing the system rather than themselves.
Many ‘intelligent’ people do not pass year 12 with flying colours. Let’s remember that intelligence is multifaceted, and can’t be holistically measured by the current assessment model. Structural changes will take a great amount of time and effort, but the sooner we start, the sooner our system will be more accomodating and effective for a greater number of young people.
A bright 2021
Consistently we saw a call for greater inclusivity throughout the top 10 priority areas and every issue voted on by students.
At Pivot, we value the power behind the student voice and are proud to see organisations like the VicSRC keeping students at the centre of education. We look forward to seeing VicSRC’s work as we continue to strive toward an education system that is more meaningfully student-led. To read the 2020 Congress Report visit: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/www.vicsrc.org.au/files/Congress+2020+Report.pdf.
Written by Wren Gillett.
Wren is Pivot’s student voice advocate. She was part of VicSRC’s executive committee for close to three years, and chaired the executive team within this time. She has a been a youth champion for charitable organisations such as the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and Dolly’s Dream, and has spoken at multiple conferences and events across Australia about the power and significance of student voice, agency and empowerment. Wren is currently in her first year of university majoring in journalism, and continues to be a passionate spokesperson for young people.