Dr Paul Browning
Education has been in the media in the last few weeks for all sorts of reasons, not the least because of concerns around teacher wellbeing and retention.
The role of a teacher is tough. The complexity of the job has certainly increased over the last decade, particularly in the area of compliance. The impact of a pandemic and then floods cannot be underestimated. It has had a huge impact on everyone’s wellbeing, not just teachers.
On top of this, the media is constantly running stories about how Australia’s education system is failing young people, laying the blame at the feet of schools and teachers. And yet, schools and teachers have never worked harder. It’s little wonder teachers are struggling.
Last week’s Weekend Australian carried some interesting commentary from Andreas Schleicher, education and skills director with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He was criticising the national curriculum, which we have to implement at St Paul’s School. He warned, Australia has “made learning a mile wide, but just an inch deep’’. There is just too much content that must be covered.
Schleicher went on to say that Australia’s shallow curriculum is producing “second-class robots” with a million teenagers on track to illiteracy over the next five years.
Pulling further quotes from Natasha Bita’s article (because they are so pertinent), Schleicher went on to say:
“We have made students passive consumers of a lot of learning content.”
“I’m not saying that Australian students learn less necessarily but when it comes to those advanced knowledge management skills, this is where they increasingly struggle,’’
“Mr Schleicher said the curriculum must teach children to out-think robots, and “think for themselves and collaborate with others’’. He said top-performing education systems “look at the realm of human knowledge, the realm of ethics and judgment, the realm of political and civic life, the realm of creativity, aesthetics, design, of physical health, natural health, economic life’’.”
Every prospective new parent tour I take people on I explain to them why we do what we do at St Paul’s School. Evidence has shown that schools condition creativity out of young people. We unintentionally, because of the demands imposed on us, “made students passive consumers of learning content” who won’t have the skills and character to be employable in the new age of AI.
Schleicher’s warnings are alarming, and he’s right. However, the good news for students at St Paul’s School is that we are well aware of the problems and what the future holds. This is why we are so committed to teaching for creativity with our teaching and learning framework “Realms of Thinking” and our focus on wellbeing and character development with “Ways of Being”.
But, it is important to say, it isn’t a matter of one or the other, creativity or academic rigour. It is both and. We use the curriculum mandated to use to ensure students perform academically as well supporting them to develop the skills, dispositions and character traits they need to thrive in the world of tomorrow.
I wonder what Andreas Schleicher would say of the education at St Paul’s School if he had to opportunity to visit?
The full article is available here (for subscribers to The Australian): Million ‘teen robots’ on path to illiteracy, OECD warns (theaustralian.com.au)