SOME Bendigo VCAL students say they would not have finished high school if the applied learning course was not offered.
Education Minister James Merlino last week confirmed the Victorian Applied Certificate of Learning would be phased out from 2023. A new vocational specialist pathway would instead be introduced in the VCE.
VCAL would then be completely scrapped in 2025, with the vocational subjects fully integrated into the senior secondary certificate.
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Bendigo Senior Secondary College student Izabella Mills said took on VCAL in her final years of school because she knew she wanted to work in the beauty sector.
She said the program allowed to start a Certificate III in Makeup and a business course, while also completing her year 12 certificate.
Miss Mills said her qualifications meant she could start her own business post-high school. She said that would not have been possible without the VCAL program.
"I would have definitely dropped out if VCAL wasn't an option," Miss Mills said. "I would have done TAFE for hairdressing or even beauty if it was apprenticeship. I probably would have finished school at year nine."
Fellow BSSC student Ruby Norman also completed VCAL in her final year of school after starting VCE in year 11.
"I just found VCE wasn't for me," she said. "It was too based on having to go to university and study. Then I went to VCAL and it opened up so many more opportunities."
Miss Norman said she was able to complete horticulture certificates as part of the VCAL program.
She now has a full time job at Djandak, an Aboriginal organisation which focuses on areas like cultural burning.
"I definitely wouldn't have been able to finish year 11 or year 12 without VCAL," Miss Norman said. "I probably would have dropped out and did TAFE."
Miss Norman said the new integrated VCE program did not make sense.
"It doesn't sound too appealing," she said. "I wouldn't have looked into it. In schools now, VCAL and VCE are so separate. I don't see how they are going to try and put it together."
Miss Mills said the announced changes made her very angry.
"Not everyone is suited to VCE," she said. "You should get the choice for the way you study. I don't know why you want to change it in any way.
"VCAL has a bad reputation but you still get qualifications and a year 12 certificate."
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