DoE’s Independent Exam Review

Below is the announcement of the Department of Education’s exam review. Make of it what you can, and what you will.

Independent review into the VCAA’s VCE examination-setting policies, processes and procedures

The Secretary of the Department of Education has initiated an independent review into the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s (VCAA) Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) examination-setting policies, processes and procedures, with a particular focus on the examinations set for the mathematics and chemistry studies.

This is in response to the issues and allegations arising from the 2023 VCE examination series.

The scope of the review will be to consider the VCAA’s examination-setting policies, processes and procedures and how these were applied to the:

1. Content of the questions in the Mathematics and chemistry examination papers

2. Editorial review of the questions in the Mathematics and chemistry examination papers; and

3. Distribution of examination papers to ensure students received the correct examination in subjects where there are multiple examination papers for different levels of study.

The Secretary has appointed Dr John Bennett, former chief executive officer of the New South Wales Office of the Board of Studies, now known as the NSW Education Standards Authority, to undertake the review.

Dr Bennett will be supported in his work by an external quality assurance expert from the Australian Council for Educational Research and an auditor from the Department of Education’s internal audit supplier, Ernst and Young.

The review will include consultation with external experts in mathematics and chemistry.

The review will report to the Secretary of the Department of the Education in March 2024.

16 Replies to “DoE’s Independent Exam Review”

  1. With no background knowledge whatsoever, looks good: keep scope tight to maths and chemistry (not too embarrassing) but clearly with other subjects in mind as the media will be hypersensitive to any mistakes; bring in external relevant expertise (even a former maths teacher!); report rapidly to ensure 2024 can be fixed. Obviously other action will be required, on the surface looks like a good first step.

      1. Maybe I’m being too positive – cynicism is usually the safest option. But within the realms of the possible, this looks reasonable. Actually hiring someone who seems to know what they are talking about is a major achievement. Not saying ANYTHING about where this winds up of course.

          1. If I were running this, I would be looking for two things: a formal report within the formal ToR, secondly off the record conversation(s) about his impressions about how things are more broadly and what to do.

            1. Sorry, JJ, neither of those makes sense to me. I’m not saying I disagree. I simply can’t parse them. Can you say it with fewer pronouns?

              1. Sorry Marty – I’m saying that the Dept exec overseeing Bennett’s project could want a formal printed report that says things that don’t embarrass too much (limited scope of maths and chemistry) and an off the record oral briefing on what VCAA’s really like more generally and what to do.

                1. I see. If there is not a public report that embarrasses the hell out of VCAA then the review will have been a(nother) sham.

                  1. Sorry Marty – no – I don’t mean that at all. Rather that this is a difficult political exercise and the level of VCAA embarrassment needs to be finely calibrated.

                    The Government can’t go in boots and all because they’ve been in power so long (unlike Robodebt) – a scathing review would embarrass Labor, who have had years to identify and fix the problem.

                    At the same time, if they want to make changes, they need to run a line that something needs fixing.

                    So it’s a bit of a delicate balance: I’m positing a report that publicly indicates change is needed in maths and chemistry that they can implement. At the same time they will suspect that the problem is deeper and will want off the record advice on that. They will know that they can’t afford mistakes in other subjects each November. So they will want to fix it properly to avoid further embarrassment.

                    Change will most likely succeed if it’s a multi-pronged strategy. In addition to the Bennett review and its recommendations, this could include a new VCAA CEO, new structures to bring in more academic expertise, an internal review etc etc. What they do will be totally contingent and depend on the political situation at each step (which we have very little hope of understanding as we are not privy to the internal DoE and Government politics).

                    Hope I’ve been clearer.

                    1. I understood, JJ.

                      My statement “… will have been a(nother) sham” was not me paraphrasing you: it was the summary of my own view.

  2. I know very little of how these things work – what are the chances, and with what time delay, are parts of the report likely to become public?

    1. Excellent question. There is zero good reason why such reports shouldn’t be public. But the compelling bad reason is that such reports tend to embarrass the authorities being reviewed. Note that VCAA hasn’t released anything of the Deloitte review except general trivia.

      So, don’t hold your breath.

      1. Will the ToR be released? (I’m a total novice when it comes to these matters and in some ways I’m quite glad for that…) Still can’t help wondering though if this is a case of one government department paying large sums of money to a private company to produce a report into a different department and produce a series of private, non-binding recommendations.

    2. Likely to be nothing, although they may release a ‘summary report’, very carefully drafted. Will depend on politically what they are trying to achieve at the time.

  3. Would’ve liked it to also review the manner in which the errors, once discovered during the examinations, were addressed and (insufficiently) rectified by the VCAA, given that, no matter what, errors could happen again.

    1. Indeed. We don’t know the ToR, so perhaps that will be covered. But there’s no sign yet that the Minister or DoE is aware that VCAA’s Examinations Unit is dysfunctional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here