Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the flaws in the Australian education system, and the need to spearhead change. If you navigate through for example, the Education Section of the Sydney Morning Herald, or the Guardian or The Australian there will be a plethora of articles and opinion pieces that cover this topic, released daily. We even have a number on our Facebook page that followers have commented on.
But why is this the case?
This belief has been floating around for a long time, as Australia’s education rankings in comparison to the rest of the world has declined dramatically and we are now 6th after South Korea, Finland, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.All of this has ultimately lead to Gonski 2.0, providing recommendations regarding educational reform which must be implemented to stimulate appropriate learning and development.
New South Wales has implemented changes in 20 subjects for implementation this year and examined for the first time next year. This is occuring in the HSC, while at the same time Gonski 2.0 is being implemented across Australia.
In New South Wales the opinion is divided on how to address the educational issues as we slip further behind internationally?
Will the curriculum changes do the job?
Will Gonski 2.0 identify the issues?
Or is it a lost cause?
Student Progress Must Be Tracked
A common strategy which most articles advocate is the need for tracking student progress. Gonski 2.0 has recommended the implementation of an “online formative assessment tool,” to track students progress and outcomes, measuring the effectiveness of the current teaching strategies and identify their weaknesses. This is essential in promoting growth for each individual student, and ensuring that at a national level, education outcomes are continuously improving. But will it take time away from teaching? Will the teacher be to preoccupied with completing the tracker, they are already ’buried in paperwork’. Anyway, we have NAPLAN….
Well rounded, constructive education.
The current system is constantly scrutinised due to the emphasis placed on simply scoring a high atar, and receiving admission into university. Schools rankings are determined by the number of Band 6 levels that the cohort achieves -not in the subject that they got the Band 6…..
Consequently, several issues arise such as students simply choosing easier subjects to maximise their marks.
The universal message across the education dialogue is that the main purpose of education should be to develop student learning and growth, to provide the requirements necessary to thrive within the workforce. Currently, it is a system where students are focusing on whatever they can do to boost their atar, leading to a decline in practical skills.
A major component of this argument is the need to promote the development of STEM skills. It is essential for students to retain a hard skill which is applicable throughout their tertiary education and employment. One of the articles stated: “Australia could boost GDP by $57.4 billion if 1 per cent of the workforce shifted into STEM’ish jobs.”
Well rounded, relevant education, is pertinent.
Focus on Individual Learning
The last, but possibly most important, theme that is discussed across most educational pieces, is the need to shift to an individualised, student-centred, education system. This ties in to the previous two points, through tracking individual student progress, and allowing students to develop practical, work-related skills.
A major discussion point which has been integrated into the Gonski 2.0 recommendations, is the shift from standardised assessments, to more sophisticated, holistic measures. Such measures have been utilised internationally, and could involve processes such as greater work experience, school evaluations, and self-reflections.
The main takeaway from all of this is the fact that the education system must realign its focus upon individual, practical, relevant learning, rather than creating an approach where university admission and scoring a high atar is the prime objective.
So the question is; is this all just food for thought, or are there obvious structural issues within the system which must be addressed?
Check out the articles below and let us know your thoughts: