School system needs ‘urgent change’ – experts

by Robert Ballantyne27 Mar 2017

 

A diverse group of Australian leaders have warned that Australia’s education system focuses too narrowly on traditional knowledge and urgently needs to change.

The group of leaders in government, education and industry from around Australia convened to consider the drivers behind this issue.

The warning coincides with a new report by the Mitchell Institute, which revealed that students are not graduating from school with the skills they need to become successful adults.

The report – titled: Preparing young people for the future of work – published today, said that “the basic model of education has been largely static in the face of changes in the broader economy”.
 
Among other worrying trends, the report found that school leavers are taking longer to find permanent jobs, and around 60% of students are turning to unpaid work experience to try to advance their careers. 

It also revealed a mismatch between study decisions and employment opportunities for students who choose tertiary pathways, with fewer university and vocational education and training (VET) graduates finding work in their chosen fields. 

Last year, around 70% of bachelor graduates and only a third of VET graduates found full-time employment in fields they had studied and trained in. 

The report’s co-author, Megan O’Connell, said unless schools broaden learning objectives, many students will fail to become capable, successful adults – putting Australia’s social and economic well-being at risk.

“Our education system was formed in the manufacturing era, it was not designed to teach students how to navigate complex environments and multiple careers,” O’Connell said in a statement.
    
“Young people need different skill sets to what is taught in the traditional curriculum if they are to thrive in high-tech, global, competitive job markets. Many young people are being left behind, and without significant change, we can expect to see more missing out in the future.”

The report says the debate in Australian education has changed from whether capabilities are worthwhile and can be taught, to accepting their value and trialling how to teach and assess them. 

It recommends capabilities be reported at a national level, assessed in schools, discussed with parents and contribute to ATARs.  

Mitchell International Fellow, Professor Bill Lucas, suggested that one way forward is to prioritise capabilities like creativity, critical thinking, curiosity and communication skills in school curriculum.
    
“Young people need to bring more than knowledge to the modern workforce. If you struggle to solve problems, collaborate or come up with new ideas, you won’t fare well in today’s or tomorrow’s job markets,” Lucas said.

“Schools could play a leading role in developing capabilities in students that will help them thrive as adults. It is time to accept that what students have learned for decades is no longer enough – it is time to change.”

 

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