There is a groundswell for change, yet until there is a vision for educational reform at the highest level, then we are doing a disservice to the great majority of our young people and our nation.
Dear Mr Garrett,
It’s time. Time to shake up the school education system in this country. Not just for the sake of it, but for the sake of this generation and generations to come.
The world is different, young people are different. Technology has changed everything. Learning can occur anywhere, anytime – not just between the hours of 9am – 3pm, Monday to Friday for 40 weeks a year in a rectangular classroom with 30 others of the same age, learning the same thing at the same time.
So much of our education system reflects the past – mass production of the industrial era, the agrarian calendar and mid-20thC family structure. Our school system boxes education to fit a paradigm based on nostalgia, rather than relevancy.
This can change. We need a new vision for school and learning for Australia, one that challenges convention and stretches individuals to think beyond their own school experiences and toward a better future for this generation and generations to come.
Minister, you need to provide that vision. It will take courage, guts and determination. So to help out, here are a few things to put on the agenda:
Students are different: Technology has changed everything. Just about all they need to know can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Technology is no longer a ‘tool’, it is the environment in which they reside and social networks are their communities, we must embrace this rather than fear it. The look and feel of school and learning must inspire and engage to encourage lifelong learners.
Teachers need new role descriptions: If knowledge can be accessed anytime, anywhere – then the work of the teacher has significantly changed. ‘Teaching’ is now one skill amongst many. They also need to be coaches, guides, mentors and leaders. They must learn and apply new skills. Dispassionate, negative and bored teachers discourage and hurt kids, turning them off learning and coming to school. Australia should be attracting the top graduates to the teaching profession because they are passionate and called, not because they see teaching as a ‘lifestyle choice’.
Content and delivery structured to reflect the needs of the learner and the community. If students are different and we are asking teachers to work in new ways, then the prescribed content should be addressed. Successful adults are self-aware, therefore it is essential, to help students understand themselves as learners structuring the content and delivery of learning in a way that enables them to build on their strengths. Personalised learning is the key to this. Subjects, timetables, one teacher to 30 students, age-related grade groupings and content-only assessments currently reinforces the industrial-era approach to school. Radical change is required.
Buildings and furniture are crucial to providing the environment that is conducive to learning. Building design, air quality, temperature and furniture make a significant impact. Resources must be allocated to create inspiring, attractive and comfortable environments. Teachers will feel valued and students will want to come to school. Today, schools must look like the creative and collaborative workspaces in the city, rather than factories and prisons.
Education reform needs to transcend the three-year election cycle. Australia’s young people deserve better than this. We need a vision for learning with deliberate effort and dedicated resources to transform schools across the nation into places that are inspiring and creative places to learn. At the same time, schools still need to teach the skills and provide knowledge, scaffolding young people as they reach their potential and pursue their hopes and dreams.
There are many like-minded, passionate educators across our nation and around the globe. We are doing our best in our own contexts, yet so much more can be done once there is vision-led leadership at the highest level.
Minister, we are relying on you, for the future of this generation, the generations to come and the prosperity of our nation.
Passionate educationalist who personally knows the value of working in her strengths and fulfilling potential.