Class of 2020: HSC during the Pandemic

Meghana with mum Mittu Gopalan

By S. Kumar

The High School Certificate year is the most significant year in a student’s school life. HSC Examination is an event that concludes sleepless, study-filled nights, and lengthy, silent exams in giant halls and classrooms alike. In 2020 about 75,000 students sat the HSC exams. In about three weeks their results will be published. And by mid-December 2020 High School Certificate will come to a close.

Oh, What a year this was!

It started with the ravaging bushfires raging across the country quickly moved into a global pandemic throwing humanity off guard like never before.

Children, especially worried about their HSC and how they would sit for exams in all this pandemic crisis, had catapulted not just all their plans for study but the whole life itself around them.

Pandemic aside, HSC students and teachers had their plates and minds full. Through 2019 and 2020, there has been a drastic overhaul of the NSW curriculum across a wide range of subjects, that the teachers and the students alike were just getting familiar with. This meant that in many subjects the 2020 cohort of HSC students were the first to sit the HSC exams with the changed syllabus. Teachers were still “finding their feet’’ along with the students.   Little did they know that a greater challenge in the form of a pandemic was just around the corner.

HSC students resumed school in February 2020 with all the energy and enthusiasm that a school year begins with, only all their enthusiasm quickly waned off. Suddenly a microscopic bug had taken control of humanity, people were dropping dead, the world was in lockdown, including kids as schooling transitioned online.

It was a whole new ball game, as teachers, students and parents just dove in. There was just no choice but to face the situation in a stoic and calm manner. Typically, a HSC student at home means for about eighteen months families park their social life with students saying bye to their extracurricular activities. They pour their heart, soul and hard work into the assessments through the year.   There are group studies, tears, anxieties and stress, and friendships – made, broken and remade, a lot of effort, time, sleep deprivation, and emotion invested. That’s in the best of times.
So what was attempting HSC like in a global pandemic?
I spoke to a few HSC students. What they thought of their milestone in the HSC Year. Their challenges and their learning.

How would you describe your HSC year?

Meghana Gopalan, MLC School, Burwood

Meghana Gopalan of MLC Burwood describes her HSC year as a challenging one, but discovered inner strengths with changed learning modes, an appreciation of education, her teachers and above all friendships.   She realised, “The bonds created with my family I never knew they existed, to be supported and guided by them throughout the HSC year.”

Abhaya Anilkumar of Kellyville High School says, “HSC year was a difficult one to adapt to, the changes, especially remote learning, but I got an insight into University learning”.

Aditeya Nair of Cherrybrook Technology High School initially found the year very stressful and overwhelming, “It was hard trying to get an understanding of where you stand. I   was very worried due to lack of face to face interaction with teachers. But as we got back to classes and lessons everyone was better focussed and better prepared.”

What was the highlight and /or most significant of this new way of learning?

Aditeya Nair, Cherrybrook Technology High School

Aditeya realised that the year unexpectedly presented him with an excellent opportunity to appreciate as well as re-evaluate his social connections, “Academically, it was the importance of ”˜preparation’. And then the ”˜how’ of preparation.”

For Abhaya it was remote learning.   Though sceptical initially, she soon realised that “I could be more independent. It has made me appreciate school life and respect the immense effort that the teachers put in for their students, even during the worst of times like the COVID.”

Meghana says her most significant learning from the HSC year was being able to learn how to balance and manage things, “Being an active leader and a senior prefect in my school, I loved coming up with new ways to sustain a relationship with the student body of the school, regardless that at times, we were all isolated at home.’’

What do you have to say to the present HSC students?

Abhaya Anilkumar of Kellyville High School

Abhaya:  “Try to tackle year 12 as a collective rather than individually.”

Meghana: “No matter what the challenge, always look at the bright side of things! Even with a pandemic we’ve made it this far.”

Adetiya: “Pandemic or no pandemic two things are really important. 1. Do not leave things to the last minute. 2.Have a balanced life.”

How did your parents cope with the pandemic challenge in your HSC year?

Abhaya with mum Bindu Anilkumar

Abhaya: “Parents were working from home, which was good. Their supportive presence helped me”.

Meghana: “My parents have been absolutely amazing ”“ my biggest cheerleaders, and my yin and the yang, making sure that I was okay through this tough time and always being there in every way they could. My parents never missed a step of my way during my HSC, they coped so well despite some of the hardships they faced in their own line of work!”

Aditeya: “Initially, my parents were worried that I was deprived of the best possible schooling. But, fortunately as the situation in Sydney and Australia got better, they were more confident. That said there were many moments when we just stopped and asked ”˜Why us’?”

And for yet others, the challenge was the sudden change to the school environment, confusion around the changes to university admission and the constant flow of new information that they had to keep up with. Some parents did find it stressful and were quite at a loss as to how to tide through this very significant school year of their child that was anything but normal.  Students realised the importance of well-being, especially mental and as well as emotional.

Higher School Certificate is the most hard-earned entry ticket into successful career pathways, or so it is believed. Yet it would soon be forgotten as these children step into the big wide world. It is just the way it is.
The HSC Class of 2020 is special in the way it has coped with Pandemic and having thus tackled a difficult year. This cohort has done very well under the circumstances and have been exemplary in ”˜rolling with the times, the changes and challenges’ of the COVID -19 year, a year that we all will never ever forget.

The Indian Down Under wishes you all the very best for a successful and fulfilling life ahead. The world is your oyster. Dig in!

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