Back to basics? Time to redefine ‘basics’ for the 21st century

The headline in the newspaper cries:

‘Tests show NSW [Australia] students behind in everything except spelling’

…followed by:

the state’s new education chief promised she will order schools to get “back to basics” – as tests showed NSW is behind other states in everything except spelling

This is the reaction in my state and my nation, but I’m fairly certain that it is the same universal knee jerk reaction. It means: If what we are doing today is not working, then let’s go back to what has worked in the past. It send the message to the community that we have an either/or mentality rather than a both/and.

We need to help the community understand that foundational skills and educational rigour are not in opposition to what is needed for a well-rounded education for the 21stC, both are necessary. Comments like these polarise the debate and, I believe, continues to disenfranchise young people from their learning. While it may not be intended, the comment ‘back to basics’ statement conjures images of the teacher at the front, students sitting in desks, copying from the boards and rote learning.

Back to basics

Do you know any other industry that looks back? Will we hear the music industry say, ‘MP3 players aren’t selling, let’s go back to the CD/Cassette Tape/LP record’?

This catch cry resonates with the community, it seems, because they reinforce the days “when I went to school”. When there were apparently no children failing and the education system was relevant for all children. Not to my recollections and not in my situation, either.

The tribe of passionate educators with whom I regularly connect know in their hearts that we must:

reinvent schools

personalise learning

change the role of the teacher

And make schools look and feel radically different, because young people have changed, the world has changed and technology has significantly and irretrievably shifted the paradigm of education.

So what are the new ‘basics’?

Prepare students for a dynamic and changing world with a curriculum that enables:




Personalised approach

A delivery of content that:


Allows for dialogue


Promotes relationship

An environment that facilitates learning:

Anywhere, anytime

From multiple sources

With a problem-solving approach

That is learner-centric

A community that understands we need an education system that is:

Relevant to the world around

Passionate about this generation and their future

Provides the skills they need

Meets aspirations, hopes and dreams of the students

Let’s reinvent what is considered the ‘basics’ for this generation and make it flexible enough to roll with the changes that will inevitably come.

Let’s not say ‘back to basics’ but develop the ‘new basics’

Will you join me?

7 thoughts on “Back to basics? Time to redefine ‘basics’ for the 21st century

  1. This is great. I’ll be trying to develop the new basics in the new learning spaces we have just designed. Thanks for the inspiration.


  2. Seems to me that any sentence that starts with “back to” has some danger in it and the implication that someone is being left behind in the present. How good would it be to hear politicians say “Forward to future fundamentals”. It’s worth dreaming!


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