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Do entry requirements improve education?

Do entry requirements improve education?

Why do education and training institutions insist on setting barriers to enrolment? Shouldn't education be open to everyone? An inside look at entry requirements and whether they improve education and training.

Browse any course in the CoursesNow directory and you'll encounter a subheading near the bottom of the page: Entry requirements. This section will outline the knowledge, skills and/or experience a training organisation expects the prospective student to have before they can—or should—enrol in the course.

Our consultants receive a lot of questions about pre-requisites and many of them are along the lines of 'but why do I need to have qualification A before I can get qualification B?' The simple answer is that the course will often deal with concepts that assume prior knowledge and/or a certain level of schooling. If you don't have this, then it is very easy to fall behind and become disillusioned with the training, which discourages students from completing the qualification.

Below are some of the common entry requirements and how it might affect your education:

Australian Year 10 or Year 12 or equivalent
If you are a school-leaver, a Year 10 or Year 12 certificate is the best evidence to vouch for your ability to complete studies. It also signals to the training provider that you have basic literacy and numeracy skills. If you have an equivalent high school leaving certificate from a non-English speaking country, you may have to present evidence of your English language skills to confirm that you can read and learn from the English material and complete your exams and/or assignments in English.

Without these pre-requisites, students may find it difficult to follow the course material. The requirement to have a Year 12 certificate, for example, indicates that the course provider expects that you can cope with fairly intensive study that may echo the preparation you undergo to complete Year 12.

Literacy and numeracy
In addition to a high school leaving certificate, certain courses may require you to have a particular level of literacy or numeracy. This reflects the level you will be expected to perform at during the course, which in turn corresponds with what is expected of you when you are employed.

As an example, if you want to enrol in a Diploma of Accounting, the course provider expects you to have above average numeracy skills. Similarly, education and research courses, such as library and information services, require you to have above average literacy skills.

Certificate or Diploma qualification
For a number of Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses, you may need to have the preceding Certificate or Diploma level qualification. This indicates that the higher-level course will build on the skills and knowledge graduates will have acquired in completing the initial qualification. Many Certificate I, II and III courses provide foundational skills that are expanded at Certificate IV or Diploma level and many Certificate IV and Diploma qualifications are the minimum for certain roles due to compliance legislation, for example Work Health & Safety.

Advanced Diplomas often take Diploma level lessons further, with a deeper insight into the study area, therefore you will need to have the Diploma first to grasp established concepts.

Sometimes a course will specify a qualification as part of a 'preferred pathway', in which case you may not need a qualification that directly precedes the one for which you're applying, for example you may not need the Certificate IV in Marketing to do the Diploma of Marketing if you've done another relevant Certificate IV course, for example the Certificate IV in Business. This ensures that you have a basic understanding of the study area and won't get too lost as the course proceeds.

If you don't have a qualification, you may still have the equivalent knowledge and skills for the units of competency through vocational experience (see below) or other non-accredited learning (e.g. short courses, community college courses) in which case you may need to be assessed prior to having your enrolment approved. Again, this is to ensure you have enough knowledge so the course is not completely bewildering.

Relevant vocational experience
Occasionally you will need to have evidence of relevant vocational experience. This may be in lieu of a formal qualification, in which case you will need to provide evidence that your experience is in line with the skills acquired in the recommended qualification. Not only does this ensure that you have foundational knowledge, it means you can apply some of the lessons to your role, or use some of your experience to enhance the lessons.

Vocational experience is more commonly requested for certifications, which require you to be an active practitioner. This is because certifications represent the bearer's knowledge and skills as well as practical competency. Entry-level certifications will allow newcomers to apply whereas higher-level professional certifications may require a minimum number of years' experience.

Bridging units
If you do not meet the entry requirements or satisfy the alternative pathways, some courses offer bridging units, which provide the requisite knowledge for you to do the course. Bridging units are generally a small set of subjects that you must take to ensure you have the assumed prior knowledge to continue your studies. Bridging units may be offered at a small cost relative to the qualification, or the equivalent may be nested in the qualification itself.

Entry requirements are far from barriers to further education and training, rather they act as guidelines for the student to gauge whether they are academically prepared to do the course, in reference to both the workload expected of them and the level of knowledge and skills they need to get the most out of the course material.

Not only does this mean you are likely to learn more as you do the course, it means you are better equipped to finish it, which means you can benefit from the qualification or certification without having wasted your time and money on a course that was pitched over your head.

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