Written by Donna Pendergast, Dean, School of Educational and Professional Studies, Griffith University
What a year it has been for them. All students have experienced disruption, some for many weeks with learning at home rolled out around the nation in its various forms.
Senior induction days celebrated early this year promised a very different experience for these now young adults as their rite-of-passage year slowly changed into one of postponed and finally cancelled events.
We conducted a series of interviews at the end of the first semester with eight Year 12 students from one Queensland school, who hope to study at university. Six were female and two male.
Many students said they were anxious about how COVID-19 has affected their senior year.
One girl said she was
super overwhelmed and uncertain as to how my results will be affected […] I am nervous for the future […] to be honest I am a little bit down[…] I was extremely excited for senior year[…] there is also a lot of chaos in the world, which is pretty overwhelming.
But some were more positive. One commented on “having fantastic teachers”, while another said he was “excited to use technology more”.
Here is what else the students we spoke with had to say about their experience in 2020 and their aspirations for university in 2021.
How they felt
As the parent of a Year 12 student, I have had the chance to sit alongside some Year 12s and witness their journey. Like many other parents and teachers, we have been privy to their disappointments and seemingly endless capacity to pivot, adapt and recalibrate — their resilience and resolve is inspiring.
Because this is their year, they must make it the best it can be. But for some the resolve is wearing thin. Almost all the students in our survey expressed a sense of loss about their school year.
One girl said
we are missing out on a lot of these opportunities as well as being able to spend time with my friends at school
And another girl expressed that
it really sucks that we have already missed out on events throughout the school and we are uncertain for how long this will last.
One girl said the class of 2020 was
disadvantaged because many memories that we are meant to be making together in our senior year has been taken away from us.
This highlights the important final year of schooling as a milestone — a rite of passage.
Only one student, who was male, had a contrary view of missing out on a normal year, saying
it’s a great opportunity to relieve myself of many commitments and free up time to work on other endeavours — in other words, I feel pretty good about it.
What about university?
This year Queensland joined the rest of the country in calculating an ATAR for university entry, whereas before they used a different system.
We asked students if they had concerns about university in 2021. One girl summarised many of the responses by saying
I think everyone is a little bit worried about how we will be affected as a cohort — not just because of Covid-19 but also because we are the first year level through on the new ATAR system. That was already pretty overwhelming in terms of new assessment, new university entry calculations, etc. I think that the biggest worry/uncertainty is if universities are going to be a bit more flexible with our cohort.
Students also suggested they are looking to universities to make up some of their lost experiences. One girl said
the class of 2020 will need supportive universities with a close sense of community when we attend in 2021 to make up for some of our lost lasts.
There is a sense of shared experience, a kind of bonding these students expressed, with several comments such as we are “staying positive and looking to the future” and “we just need to look after each other”.
Perhaps endurance and resilience have become a necessary part of the DNA of the class of 2020. These are positive behaviours that will see them through their next phase of education.