The Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) is the authoritative agency on research, teaching and learning for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) in Australian and New Zealand universities. We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Education Council’s Review of Senior Secondary Pathways from the perspectives of our members, their faculties, and their current and future students.

Recent data from our Australian members indicates that there has been a decline in enrolments in undergraduate HASS degrees in recent years. This trend, should it continue, is concerning given that predictions for Australia’s future economy and workforce emphasise the necessity of skills best developed through engagement with HASS disciplines, such as communication, creativity, cultural awareness and critical thinking.

Today’s senior secondary students require expertise across both HASS and STEM disciplines in order to be successful throughout their working lives, yet in recent years there has been a disproportionate emphasis by governments and some industry sectors on the role of STEM disciplines in the context of future work. While some focus on STEM is important to an extent, particularly with regard to the promotion of women in traditionally male-dominated fields, it is vital to promote the value of pairing HASS and STEM skills in the future workforce.

It is becoming increasingly evident that a single post-secondary qualification is unlikely to provide sufficient training for the entire career of a student graduating secondary school in 2019. Most will complete multiple degrees or certificates at different levels, often in diverse fields, and many will decide to retrain or upskill at various stages of their careers. DASSH members believe current secondary students need to be made aware of the need for continuing, lifelong education, both to manage their expectations of post-secondary courses and to relieve the anxiety that many students experience during the final years of secondary school. Encouraging the view that education is an ongoing journey with a variety of pathways and entry-points will allow students greater freedom to pursue different fields without fearing that their options have been irreparably limited.

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