ATAR will raise standards in Qld: academic

Ed Jackson

English will be held to a higher standard in Queensland despite the state deciding to make it non-compulsory for a student's marks in the subject to be included in university entrance rankings, a leading academic says.

Queensland is falling in line with the rest of the country by introducing the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) in its secondary schools.

Queensland's rank will be calculated from a student's best five subjects.

Unlike NSW and Victoria, English needs to be passed, but may not necessarily be included in the total used to calculate a student's rank.

That decision has been labelled "ludicrous" by Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington who says it will leave the state's students worse off when it comes to employment opportunities.

"We have to give our kids the best start in life. Why should we be behind states like NSW and Victoria? If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us," Ms Frecklington told reporters on Friday.

But Labor MP Kate Jones, who was the state's education minister when the ATAR adoption was announced in 2015, says the system lifts the standard in Queensland.

Under the state's current system a student can obtain an Overall Position (OP) without studying English in Years 11 or 12.

"What this reform will do is make it compulsory for every Year 11 and 12 student who wants an ATAR to complete English and pass English," Ms Jones said.

"Independent schools lobbied very hard for the current position because they did not want to penalise international students or students that live in Queensland that come from a non-English speaking background that are exceptional in science and exceptional in maths."

Griffith University School of Education head Donna Pendergast agrees with that argument.

She says the ATAR will ensure all Queensland students aspiring to study at university must have proven a competent level of English even if it isn't used to form their ATAR.

"Students will have to achieve a sound, or passing grade, in English to be awarded an ATAR," she told AAP.

"So in a sense they have to have successfully completed an English subject ... by comparison it's a positive step forward."

Ms Pendergast said allowing students to use subjects they're more proficient at to determine their ATAR will create a better reflection of their abilities.

She also said the compulsory English component of ATAR was only in place in NSW and Victoria, putting Queensland students in no different position to students in any of the country's other states or territories.

"They're still going to have to study (English) anyway," she said.