What high school got wrong about learning

High school's a funny ol' thing, don't ya reckon?
Students playing a gig with purple lights

There’s over a million school students in Australia, yet only one route we can take until we turn 18. A one-size-fits-all model for learning that we’re all supposed to click with. Strangely, though, the high-school model of learning just doesn’t quite do it for a lot of people.

You’ve also probably heard the stories about people who just didn’t vibe with school at all (you might even be one of ’em – plenty of the crew at Year13 were). Turns out, those students weren’t bad kids, or destined to be failures forever just because they didn’t ace every exam in high school.

The real problem was that there’s a tonne of things about learning that the high school system got wrong (shock, horror).


Here’s a few of ’em:


At school, you sit behind a desk and spend all day listening to someone tell you what’s what about one subject.
Then you read a textbook and memorise everything it has to say. Then you regurgitate everything you’ve ‘learnt’ (but in your own words, of course) in the form of an assignment or exam. Then, you’ve got to do the same thing all over again for a completely different subject.

But we all know that this style isn’t for everyone.

Imagine studying film and actually being able to use a legit film studio and professional camera and lighting equipment during your classes! Or studying music production and getting access to state of the art recording equipment and industry-standard software like Ableton. Or simply having hands-on, creative assessments that are project-based and collaborative.

At places like SAE Institute you don’t get stuck focusing on one single area forever. Many of their creative degrees overlap with one another, meaning that when you study one thing with SAE, you get the chance to team up with people from other creative disciplines to make your projects come to life. Think film students doing a collab with audio students to produce a music video, or audio kids helping out with the sound design for someone working on a new video game.

Remote collaboration is a key part of all creative industries (especially considering what’s happening in the world atm), and with the way SAE runs things, group work has never sounded so enticing! They’ve actually recently restructured their course modules to offer a flexible learning style, so if you’re studying from home you’ll get the support you need, build your remote collaboration skills and still connect with like-minded creative peers.


At school, the goal is to get the best marks possible and absolutely nail the curriculum (in fact, most of you reckon that your school cares more about your ATAR than you as students).

That’s probably why you feel like half the stuff you learn is never going to be helpful in a real-life situation. You’re not really learning about the subject Ð you’re just learning how to get top marks.

When you finally finish Year 12, you’ll realise that in the real world, that random grade on an English essay and how you went in a handful of exams isn’t the be all and end all.

Our mates at SAE Institute know this too, which is why you can apply to their courses without an ATAR. Yep Ð they know you’re worth more than your marks and they give you the chance to study what you’re passionate about without stressing about your final ranking Ð pretty bloody good, don’t ya reckon?


In high school, we’re told that our whole lives should revolve around studying Ð everything else should be put on hold while we’re on the grind. But once you get out in the real world you realise just how important experience actually is, and that’s something you can’t get from a textbook.

The reality is, employers are usually way more interested in any previous work experience you’ve had than what your marks were in a handful of exams.

At the moment, you’ve probs got a lot more time on your hands each day by not having to physically go into school. No getting dressed and rushing through brekky in the morning, no getting stuck in traffic or waiting for the bus, and no walking from class to class.

Our advice? Don’t dedicate all of those bonus hours to extra study. Focus on spending time doing the things you’re passionate about. Your creative pursuits, your dreams, your goals. That’ll get you further than that extra 2% in that upcoming maths exam ever will.

SAE work placement students at Splendour In The Grass


For the creative types out there, SAE Institute runs a bunch of top-notch courses and degrees in areas like film, audio, animation, design and gaming. The best part about them is they place a huge focus on practical learning, meaning you’ll be putting your creative talents to work from day one. SAE partners up with sick events and festivals like Splendour in the Grass, Bluesfest and PAX to help you build experience and gain connections at places that actually interest you. Some SAE graduates even end up landing a job through their work experience and find themselves working on big music festivals straight off the bat; suss out the students who got to do a work placement in Splendour in the Grass (imagine getting to work behind the scenes at one of your fave festivals?)!

This article originally appeared in Year 13

Group of young students walking together

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