How could I go to university? I had attended Malvern Girls Secondary School up to Year 11, a school amongst others established in Victoria in the post war period as domestic science schools for girls. We were taught to be efficient wives and mothers! The general maths, arithmetic oriented curriculum we were exposed to aimed to fit us for domestic life. We did not study languages but emerged with the capacity to iron a man’s shirt in seven steps; cook specialities such as tongues in aspic; weave shawls and cushion covers; make smocked babies dresses and embroider using skills such as Florentine work; shadow work and more. The curriculum finished with the Leaving Certificate at Year 11, that is, if we continued past Proficiency (Year 9) or Intermediate (Year 10), perhaps with a view to studying nursing or go on to further studies at the Emily McPherson Domestic Science College. if we wanted to go to University or Teachers’ College we would need to complete Year 12 at a different school.
Now, almost having completed Year 12 at Oakleigh High School, preference forms in front of me, Social Work at Melbourne University was clearly my first preference and duly placed in first position on the form.
What to put next? The Arts faculty, with such exciting prospects, was ‘out’ – it had a foreign language prerequisite. A Science degree was clearly not an option, though I had loved studying Biology in Years 11 and 12.
What about Economics and Politics at nearby Monash University? I had been fascinated by Economics in both Years 11 and 12. It was exciting to discover maths was not a prerequisite! However, at least General Maths at Year 12 was ‘preferred’ and Calculus ‘highly recommended’. Although perhaps a ‘long shot’ because of the recommendations regarding Maths, Economics and Politics at Monash was placed in second position on the form. I investigated applying for a teaching studentship for a funded place for both the Bachelor of Economics and Politics Degree and Diploma of Education.
The results came out. Thrilled at being offered Social Work at Melbourne University, I was disappointed to discover I could not commence until I turned 19, a year away. My second choice and offer, Economics and Politics at Monash, was accepted, accompanied by the Education Department teaching studentship (and three-year bond) which would make me more independent of my family. I was off to University!
‘If you can’t differentiate, you may as well leave now’ stated the Dean during our orientation.
I didn’t even know what ‘differentiate’ meant, at least in the mathematical sense! But…I had nowhere else to go!
For first two years, I ‘winged it’ for much of the way!
I winged it when completing a ‘remedial’ maths unit for Economics students who needed more maths. I winged it when studying Economic Statistics and other units throughout what was then becoming a more mathematically oriented course.
I winged it in the accounting subjects. Unlike many other students, I had not completed foundation studies in bookkeeping and accountancy at school. Decluttering recently, I came across ‘Cost Accounting’ by Gordon and Shillinglaw, my text for Accounting IIA. As I browsed through it, strangulating memories of trying to conceptualise its content when I was 19 and of ‘winging it’ when applying what I had tried to understand during the Cost Accounting examination, were triggered.
It wasn’t until third year that I became fully engaged with and enjoyed most units, though ‘Agricultural Economics’ was particularly challenging as it required more advanced maths.
Studying the Diploma of Education at Monash the following year proved a better ‘fit’ for me, with the maths I’d picked up while studying Economics overcoming any problems I may otherwise have had in this area. I loved the Diploma of Education curriculum, particularly the Methods of Teaching Economics unit, and thoroughly enjoyed my teaching placements, if slightly overwhelmed at times. If ever a job needs a capacity to wing it – it’s teaching!
In 1992, after a rewarding career of over 20 years with the Education Department I decided upon a mid-life career change, returning to study Social Work as a mature age student at Melbourne University. Social Work proved a wonderful fit reflected in academic results--I very rarely felt as if I was ‘winging it’!. It led on to six years ‘in the field’ as a practising Social Worker (I quite often felt as if I was ‘winging it’!), followed by over ten years teaching Community Services work at TAFE.
Seen in retrospect, I’m glad that I took the plunge and studied Economics at Monash as a young adult, despite often ‘winging it’. I gradually developed confidence in areas which challenged me and have been able to add depth to my knowledge base over time. I’m proud that I graduated as a Bachelor of Economics and Politics in 1969, proud that I was exposed to the progressive academics teaching at Monash University in its early years.
What a great start studying Economics and Politics at Monash proved to be to a lifetime which, viewed in retrospect, has continued to require the skills, understanding, capacity and resilience—to 'wing it’!