Eating Disorders Victoria and Eating Disorders Families Australia have been alerted to problematic themes in this year’s VCE Further Maths Exam.
We know that this has been highly distressing for some students and parents. EDV and EDFA have written to James Merlino, the Minister for Education and Mental Health, and Stephen Gniel, the CEO of VCAA, to express our deep concern and disappointment about this issue. You can read the letter below.
Nov 19 2020
Dear Minister Merlino and Mr Gniel,
We are writing to express our deep concern and disappointment regarding certain themes presented in the Year 12 Further Mathematics exam, which took place on Monday November 16, 2020.
As representatives of organizations that support young people and families through the devastating impacts of eating disorders, we believe that utilizing themes of weight gain, BMI, body size, overweight and obesity to construct questions in a mathematics exam is extremely insensitive and highly inappropriate. Such themes can be triggering and stigmatizing for anyone, but especially for those with experience of body image issues, disordered eating and eating disorders.
As you can understand, it is very disheartening to think that students who may have found this content distressing may have had their performance in this exam negatively impacted. Even more concerning is that some students may have had their eating disorder recovery compromised. Eating Disorders Victoria has heard from one mother whose daughter has Anorexia Nervosa – she was unable to complete the exam because of how triggering she found these questions. Another mother whose child is a sibling of someone with an eating disorder has contacted Eating Disorders Families Australia. This child was also distressed by this unexpected content in a Mathematics exam.
Eating disorders are serious mental health issues that disproportionally affect young people. Victoria is currently experiencing a surge in eating disorder new presentations and relapses in young people due to the impacts of COVID-19. With unhelpful commentary around things such as ‘covid kilos’, there is more need than ever to be sensitive around issues such as weight, size, shape or attaching any type of classification to a person based on BMI.
Furthermore, BMI within a Health and PE context is discouraged due to the problematic nature of this health measurement tool and associated negative mental health implications. The use of BMI within mathematics or any other subject should be treated similarly.
Given the fantastic work that the Victorian Government is currently undertaking in the mental health space, including with eating disorders, we hope that you will hear our concerns and implement checks and balances to ensure themes such as these do not make their way into future exams or curriculum.
Belinda Caldwell, CEO, Eating Disorders Victoria
Christine Naismith, Board Member, Eating Disorders Families Australia
– For further comment or media enquiries, please contact EDV Communications Manager Breanna Guterres at firstname.lastname@example.org or PH 0431 717 177 –