VCAA’s Draft Feedback Due TODAY

We’ve been remiss in not writing further on VCAA’s draft for the new mathematics VCE subjects. It’s just, for reasons we’ll explain briefly here and flesh out elsewhere, we’ve struggled to face up to this new nonsense.

But, feedback is due TODAY (midnight? – see links below), and we really oughta say something. So, here are our brief thoughts and then, after that, why we believe none of it really matters:

  • “Computational thinking and algorithms” is pure snake oil.  Inevitably, it will be nothing but wafer-thin twaddle for the training of data monkeys.
  • The increased weight on these meaningless, revolting SACs is insidious.
  • If we read it correctly, more weight will be placed on the non-CAS Methods/Specialist exams; it is not remotely close to enough, but it is good.
  • Statistics was and is and will always be an insane topic to emphasise in school.
  • Foundation Mathematics: Who Cares?
  • General Mathematics: Who Cares?
  • Mathematical Methods: same old swill.
  • The deletion of mechanics from Specialist Mathematics is criminal, but the topic had already been so bled to meaningless that it hardly matters.
  • In principle, the inclusion in SM of “logic” and “proof and number” and “combinatorics” is a good thing. We’ll see.
  • Similarly, in principle the making of SM12 presumed knowledge for SM34 is good; in practice, it is almost certainly bad. Currently, a good teacher at a good school will take the freedom in SM12 to go to town, to show their students some genuine mathematics and real mathematical thought. In the future, that will be close to impossible, and SM12 will likely become as predictable and as dull as MM12 (and MM34 and SM34).

And now, why doesn’t any of it matter? Because, fundamentally it doesn’t matter what you teach, it matters how you teach. What matters is the manner in which you approach your subject and your students, and none of that will change in other than a microscopic manner. Nothing in VCAA has changed, nothing in the general culture of Victorian education had changed. So, why the Hell would twiddling a few dials on utterly insane subjects assessed in an utterly insane manner make any meaningful difference?

Everything VCAA touches, they will turn to shit. That will continue to be true until there is a fundamental cultural shift, in VCAA and generally.

I hate this place.


  • The current (pre-COVID) study design (pdf) is here.
  • The draft for the new study design (word) is here.
  • The key changes overview (work) is here.
  • The link for feedback (until March 9, 2021) is here.

11 Replies to “VCAA’s Draft Feedback Due TODAY”

  1. It matters to the extent that:

    1) Teachers want and deserve a Study Design that is clear and self-consistent. Not ambiguous, murky and ad hoc. You don’t ask, you don’t get (and you have no cause to complain when you don’t get).

    So if if the content and philosophy behind the content is shit, we can at least demand that the content be clear and self-consistent. None of the Stupid Designs in the past have done this.

    2) It sends a message that teachers care. It is important that VCAA knows that teachers care.

    3) When the feedback gets ignored (and it will – that’s the real reason why the feedback itself does not matter) , teachers can at least demand to know why it was ignored. So in principle there’s some degree of accountability (even though in practice VCAA believes it’s accountable to no-one, and certainly not to classroom teachers).

    So what we say doesn’t really matter, but the fact that we say it does matter. A lot.

    VCAA is too gutless to hold public Q&Q sessions on the Study Design. And the MAV is too cosy to demand this.

    1. Thanks, JF.

      Just to clarify, of course I think people should be complaining, formally and informally, verbally and physically, with fruit and with rocks.

      In terms of what VCAA might consider, the survey makes absolutely clear that the direction is to critique the little detail. I can see that it’s well worth it to teachers, but except for clear clunkers, I don’t have the interest in that.

  2. Firstly, I agree on all points you raise here and although I could add a few other bits, I won’t repeat what I already wrote on the two VCAA surveys; it has pretty much been said in many other places already.

    One thing I do wonder is about the mechanics topic and, maybe it is a chicken-and-egg situation, but I remember enrolments in SM34 being a lot higher than they are in 2021 and part of me wonders if University Engineering departments dropping the subject as a prerequisite is part of the reason for this. If so… well, it makes sense (not that I agree) that mechanics no longer be required.

    In not totally unrelated thoughts – the IB HL (and SL, but that is less relevant) curriculum doesn’t really have ANY mechanics, does have cross product of vectors, intersection of lines in 3D space and plenty of combinatorics. The “truth and logic” is not present in either – it sits in the third (or fourth, depending on who you ask) subject of Mathematical Studies SL (which, interestingly enough is also where statistical inference is found – it is an optional topic in the HL course)

    1. Thanks, RF.

      Others may know better, but I assume Engineering’s rapacious idiocy in killing SM as a prerequisite is largely independent of VCAA’s ignorant idiocy in killing mechanics within SM.

      As for IB not having mechanics: sure. There is plenty good that one can have in a senior maths subject, and little of it is obligatory. What is criminal is when you are gifted, entrusted with a beautiful and beautifully presented topic, and then you slowly torture it and dismember it until, finally, you throw away the battered, unrecognisable torso. VCAA are fucking barbarians.

      1. RF, it is absolutely certain that Specialist numbers dropped because universities dropped it as a prerequisite for courses like Engineering. Look what happened to Physics numbers when universities dropped Physics as a prerequisite for Medicine.

        Marty, as you know very well, Universities make decisions that are based purely on economics. It is a virtual certainty that Specialist Maths was dropped purely to increase enrolments and hence funding. Then the universities have the gall to complain about standards and moan about having to introduce bridging subjects in first year.

        Now we see that some universities have dropped Maths Methods as an entry requirement. Further Maths is apparently a sufficient prerequisite. Others will follow suit. And doubt they will complain about the consequences of this decision.

        As you brew, so shall you drink.

        And now that ATM enrolments have gone into freefall (for some universities ATM’s accounted for over 40% of their enrolment, that’s a lot of cash …), we will see further economic decisions that will lead to further bad educational and research outcomes.

        1. You mean like NO YEAR 12 Mathematics AT ALL required to be a primary teacher?

          Yeah… that worked out great…

          Having worked for a university as well as many schools, I can honestly say that universities can make schools look efficient, which is saying A LOT.

          1. RF; At one university, the entry requirements for primary teaching is “satisfactory completion” in Units 1 and 2 of any of the three VCE mathematics subjects. And we know what “satisfactory completion” means.

            It will be interesting to see what happens when the 4th VCE mathematics subject is introduced.

  3. Market forces drive much of the decision making in schools and universities.

    Today at school I walked past VCE classes in psychology and sociology, full to the brim with enthusiastic students – at least 90% of them are female students.

    And it’s not only mathematics and physics that are suffering. I gather that visual arts is also suffering. Some schools that had excellent vibrant programs in visual arts a few years ago now struggle to get students interested.

    It’s a curious business.

    1. You’ve noted this before. The commenters here, myself included, note that “universities are a soulless fucking business”. Your response seems to be that universities are a soulless fucking business, just expressed in gentler language.

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