Girls who complete Year 12 at a Catholic school in Sydney are significantly more likely to go to university, a study by the Australian National University’s Social Research Centre for the NSW Department of Education found.
This is not news to incoming Year 12 students at Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich, who put the result down in part to a school environment that was supportive and emphasised the opportunities available to them.
The report looked at students in NSW public, Catholic and independent schools, finding female students with good Year 9 NAPLAN results who have parents with a high socio-economic status and attend a Catholic school within greater Sydney were more likely to begin a degree.
Madison Toohey, 16, hopes to do a double degree in Law and Journalism at UTS. “It’s not drilled into us that we have to go to university, it’s just that the opportunity is there,” she said. “The idea that you can achieve whatever you want to do is embedded from Year 7.
“You are able to experience so many different things that you want to go to university. You want to challenge yourself and be able to embrace those opportunities because you’ve had such a rich education within your school life.”
Aisling Hamilton, 17, is interested in a degree with a humanitarian or legal focus. She said supportive teachers were also a factor in her decision to study further.
“You’re encouraged to know what you want to do [post-school] so they can help guide you,” she said. “Our careers advisor sends us emails every week with open days you can go to. We’re almost bombarded with opportunities.”
The students said assessments in Years 7 and 8 which focused on real-world problem solving also fed their thoughts of university and career at an early age. They have put themselves into the shoes of journalists and film critics for English assessments, and environmentalists, detectives and café managers for Science.
In Geography they were given a country and key word then asked to build models which showed their solution to a problem which linked the two.
Ashling Coffey, 16, who hopes to become a foreign correspondent, had to work out how to store food in a Mozambique community knowing the African nation was prone to floods.
“Taking the theory and applying it provides you with insight,” she said. “It becomes more than just words on paper and makes you start to think ‘Maybe I would be interested in doing that later’.
“Our group work and proposals for major assignments [in History] are modelled on study and assessment methods used in university degrees. It gives us that aspiration to go there, because we’ve already been introduced to the skills.”