Experts urge expanded vision for Australian education

Education experts from Australia and overseas came together on October 3 to discuss how Australia’s education system can better prepare young people for work and life.

The SVA Education Dialogue 2017: Learning that Matters, presented by Social Ventures Australia (SVA), addressed the education challenge presented by the future world of work. Leaders from government, schools, universities and the business community came together to push for an agenda for change across all parts of the education system.

Those speaking included:

  • Andreas Schleicher: Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General, OECD
  • Dr Michele Bruniges AM: Secretary, Australian Department of Education and Training
  • Jan Owen AM: CEO, Foundation for Young Australians
  • Belinda Hutchinson AM: Chancellor, University of Sydney
  • Anthony Mackay AM: Chair, SVA Education Dialogue

With 40% of Australian jobs vulnerable to being replaced by automation by in the next 20 years, a great education is enormously important if Australia is to prepare students for that reality.

With those challenges in mind, formal education will increasingly require a focus on giving students a broad set of capabilities, rather than a narrow set of skills and knowledge, to thrive in work and life.

Andreas Schleicher said the best performing countries around the world recognise the need for young people to acquire a broad set of capabilities including critical and creative thinking, empathy and resilience.

‘The purpose of education is about equipping young people to succeed not just in the workplace, but in their lives more generally. This requires capabilities beyond literacy and numeracy which have been the traditional focus of formal education.’

‘We need to rethink the way we teach, learn, and assess progress; not just in Australia, but across the world. For example, we know it’s important for people to collaborate, compete, connect, and work with each other – and so we are beginning to test these skills through PISA. We’re doing so not just because it’s interesting but because these kinds of skills are playing an ever more important role for success in our society.’

‘In the past Australia has been a leader in curriculum development when it comes to capabilities, but there’s a need to redouble efforts to keep up with the pace of change and to develop rigorous tools for teachers to employ in their practice.’

Mr Schleicher is leading the OECD’s Future of Education and Skills: Education2030 initiative. The initiative aims to identify future knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that today’s students will need to learn.

Dr Michele Bruniges AM, Secretary of the Australian Department of Education and Training, noted the inclusion of capabilities beyond literacy and numeracy in the Australian curriculum.

‘The Australian Department of Education and Training has been deliberate about ensuring that capabilities like critical and creative thinking, ethical and intercultural understanding and capability with technology are prioritised in Australian classrooms. Literacy and numeracy will always be the building blocks for learning, but the general capabilities outlined in the Australian Curriculum will assist students to navigate an increasingly complex world.’

‘It’s also important that we invest in understanding how to effectively teach and assess an expanded set of capabilities, working with partners across states, sectors, and internationally to get this right.’

Jan Owen AM, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, commented:

‘FYA’s New Work Order report series has found that to be ‘work smart’ in the future, young people will need to not only acquire foundation and technical skills, but be able to use these in an increasingly entrepreneurial and creative ways, as well as possessing a thirst for ongoing learning.’

‘To prepare them we must urgently transform our traditional education and training approaches and institutions into immersive learning partners.’

Belinda Hutchinson AM, Chancellor of the University of Sydney, said that employers were increasingly looking for graduates with a broad capability set beyond subject matter expertise developed through their tertiary studies.

‘The world of work is rapidly changing. Globalisation and technology changes including digitisation, artificial intelligence, and robotics are fundamentally changing the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that employers are looking for and are required for our society and economy to prosper in the 21st century and beyond.’

Anthony Mackay AM, Chair SVA Education Dialogue, said that the learning agenda in Australia requires intensive collective effort.

‘We have now held six SVA Education Dialogues, bringing together leaders from across sectors with a shared interest in ensuring the Australian education system is of the highest level. Each dialogue has generated new thinking and action towards this vital and increasingly urgent national endeavour.’

SVA CEO Rob Koczkar said the education challenge was everyone’s concern.

‘It’s the shared responsibility of all of us – students, parents and educators, government and business leaders – to support all young people to seize the opportunities that will emerge for them. Broadening the capabilities we teach in schools is a huge part of that, and research tells us it will help close the achievement gap because it gives kids, no matter their background, the best chance for success in work and life.’

‘It’s fantastic to see momentum building for this agenda. Let’s keep moving.’

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