An article in The Age recently opened up, yet again, the discussion around education and the pros and cons of a conservative approach to teaching and learning or a more innovative, creative approach. It made for thought-provoking reading.
I make no apology for being a huge fan of Sir Ken Robinson and his ideals of a creativity-centred philosophy of education. I am also aware, however, that after 25 years in a classroom we need some of the basics of what might appear to be an outdated system of teaching and learning if we are to adequately prepare our children for their future – a future we know little about.
Our current education system is based on preparing students for a current raft of careers and jobs. But for how long is current current? How can we prepare students for careers that do not yet even exist? How can we prepare students for a work-lifespan which will probably see them change jobs more than 25 times and career paths more than 5 times – based on current statistics?
My argument is simple – why can’t we have a little of both? Our new Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, claims that we need a return to the basics, and that we need to provide parents with ‘what they expect’ for their children. I’ve worked with thousands of parents and, regardless of educational experience, status or achievements, there remains one constant. Parents want their children to achieve whatever their potential might be and to be happy, secure, responsible and employed adults! Yes, there are those high-achiever parents who want (for a variety of reasons) to see their child succeed above all others and above all else. In the main, however, this is not the case – so Christopher Pyne should not assume that our education system needs to be based on a principle of giving parents ‘what they expect’. That is such a narrow view of education.
We need to teach the basics – absolutely true. Regardless of what career paths may or may not exist right now, and the educational requirements of these career paths, I think it’s safe to say that we need to be both literate and numerate. How we achieve these goals is still up for discussion. I wince at some of our methods of inspiring children to read and write creatively – there’s nothing creative about it! In my opinion, we kill off the capacity for creative literacy in primary school …and it continues its deterioration throughout high school. Unfortunately, our obsession with testing for testing-sake tends to create a ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching – there are so many boxes teachers need to tick, so we drive ourselves through the curriculum the best way we can – leaving little room or time for a more relaxed, dare I say, creative approach to teaching.
In a more creative learning environment, there is room for student-centred learning – students steering the learning, but aided by an enthusiastic professional skilled in their subject; and there should also be times when the professional is steering the ship. I can’t see why we can’t have both.
Educational change will not happen overnight. What it takes is an innovative and collaborative approach – there should be no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ education. Every child is different, and I believe every child has an intrinsic capacity to learn and achieve – if the spark is lit!
What we don’t need is a constant battle of wills – we need people with knowledge, people with passion and people prepared to listen to each other and take the best ideas on board to create a system that targets all children to be the best they can be. Who’s up for that challenge!
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