HSC Schooling – Dealing With Unmotivated Teachers

This may be a controversial topic of discussion but it's a problem faced by students commonly: What if you have a 'bad' teacher at school during your all-important HSC year?

Firstly, what do we mean by 'bad' teacher? We certainly do not mean a teacher who is strict and demands highly of his / her class (here, we call that a great teacher!). However a teacher who: may be less than ideal in terms of communication skill, have issues with his / her knowledge of their subject area, sets feasible questions questions that do not correlate with syllabus requirements, are some examples of someone who could be considered a 'bad' teacher.

For students aiming for a high ATAR, success in each one of their subjects is essential to achieving this goal, and having even a single teacher at school that is ineffective can have significant negative impact on your learning.

Lets go over some 'what ifs' and possible things you can do to less the negative impacts.

  • What if my teacher's knowledge of their subject area looks sketchy and incomplete?

It's not surprising that some teachers have difficulty with their own subject area – some teachers are freshly allocated into an unfamiliar subject, while (less commonly) others are just disinterested in their field.

Unfortunately, this is a common scenario faced by many students, and is extremely frustrating to students that are actually aiming to do well in their HSC. There's no magic way out, you'll need to make the most out of self-study. Find motivated friends to study / trade notes with. Find a good text book and read ahead. If money and time commitment is not an issue, get tutored for that particular subject, whether on a 1 on 1 basis or at a tuition center.

  • What if my teacher persistently sets exam questions that are not quite in the syllabus?

Sadly, some teachers feel that their experience gives them the right to set unnecessarily tricky questions that break the boundaries of the syllabus. This is a serious problem since internal evaluations determine rank, which is a determinant of your ATAR. If you find yourself losing marks because of unreasonable exam questions, definitely report these to the head teacher.

Document the disputed questions and ask the head teacher to justify which part of the syllabus they address.

  • What if my teacher's behavior is less than professional, eg wastes excess class time on chatting with students / irrelevant topics
  • What if my teacher can not control the class, my peers are disinterested, and the class atmosphere is not conducive to learning as a result?

Lodge a complaint to the head teacher (could be risky if doing this alone – your complaint may backfire). It certainly helps if a significant number of other students also feel the same way. Other than that, there's little you can do, especially if your school is full of disinterested peers that are not as motivated as you are to do well. In these situations, I would suggest attending a tutoring center, just so you can interact with students from other schools, as well as gain exposure to better quality teaching.


It's a real achievement being the one of the few students coming from a neglected school that manages to score a high ATAR. Students from these schools face unique adversities, such as having unmotivated teachers, limited resources, or unmotivated and often disrupted persons. However, with a little extra hard work, persistence and initiative (eg self study, maintaining a healthy work ethic), your ATAR goal can be attained. And it's extra rewarding knowing that you achieved your goals despite facing the difficulties you had.

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