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1.1 Background to the QCE system

The Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) system represents the next phase in the evolution of Queensland’s approach to curriculum, assessment and senior certification. It replaces Queensland’s system of externally moderated school-based assessment, and in doing so, builds on a long tradition of review and renewal, summarised below.

1970s: Establishing school-based assessment

In the 1970s, Queensland introduced school-based assessment to its senior education system. Teachers devised assessment instruments and made judgments about how well students had learnt. These judgments became the main basis of students’ final results. Teachers were required to document the main aspects of a course of study, develop and implement a range of assessment instruments and report on student achievement using a norm-based method. Selected teachers were involved in ‘moderation’ meetings to ensure that the proposed grades for students were comparable between schools.

1980s and 1990s: Embedding criteria and standards

The system underwent a significant shift in the early 1980s, when it moved from a norm-based model to a criteria-based model of assessing student achievement. There was a move away from determining grades based on direct comparisons between students’ work, and toward a system using predetermined criteria and standards to award grades and report on achievement. Schools were required to develop detailed work programs to specify various aspects of the course of study their students would undertake; and students were provided with the criteria their work would be judged on, before beginning each task. Students’ results were externally moderated by review panels of ‘teacher experts’, who were responsible for maintaining standards and comparability between schools in each district.

2000s: Broadening opportunities for learning

In the early 2000s, the nature of senior schooling was reconsidered. This led to a range of reforms. From 2006, young people were required to be engaged in learning until the age of 17 if they were not yet in the paid workforce, and Year 10 was repositioned as the start of the senior phase of learning. The 2006 Year 10 cohort was the first to have their workplace, university and community learning achievements recorded as part of the senior secondary certificate: the QCE. A broader range of learning could now contribute to senior certification, with greater flexibility in where and when learning occurred. In 2008, the first QCEs were awarded to graduating students, and the Queensland Certificate of Individual Achievement (QCIA) was introduced for students with impairment or difficulties in learning not primarily due to socioeconomic, cultural or linguistic factors.

From 2019: Combining school-based and external assessment

The QCE system started in 2019. Its core components — decided in 2015 in response to an independent review of senior assessment and tertiary entrance — include:

  • a new approach to senior assessment, combining school-based assessment with external assessment set and marked by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA)
  • new processes that strengthen the quality and comparability of school-based assessment
  • transferring responsibility for tertiary entrance ranking from the QCAA to the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC).

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