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Schooling Should Be About Growing Great Human Beings

Imagine a world of learning that encourages imagination, creativity, curiosity and analytical thinking.

24/05/2017 12:38 PM AEST | Updated 24/05/2017 12:38 PM AEST
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It's time for educators to think outside the box.

Amid much debate about education in Australia, the promise of an authentic student needs-based funding model represents a significant opportunity to do things differently.

The headlines about falling standards in international testing, the widening achievement gap between privileged and less privileged students based on background and geography, as well as the conflict about school funding, divert and undermine efforts to design something greater for our nation. Easily our biggest challenge in Australian education is the way we go about it.

Readers will no doubt be able to call upon their own stories of less than inspiring learning in classrooms that lacked relevance, meaning and purpose. I would even venture to suggest that funding of schools would not be a problem if a dollar was generated each time a student asked despairingly, "What are we learning this for, Miss/Sir?".

How much more inspiring, challenging, exciting and engaging schooling could be if the traditional assembly line model was abandoned for something more appropriate to a rapidly developing world full of possibilities?

Imagine a world of learning for young people that is much more than this. One that encourages and nurtures students to more readily pursue and develop their gifts of imagination, creativity, curiosity, analytical thinking and working productively with others.

How much more inspiring, challenging, exciting and engaging schooling could be if the traditional assembly line model was abandoned for something more appropriate to a rapidly developing world full of possibilities?

To do so requires the courage to let go of the systems and classrooms that adults have known and experienced throughout their own lifetimes. There is an urgent need for leaders and educators to play in the field of discovery, to break free of self-imposed limits of imagination and conditioning, so that they can create and model the style of learning we want for students. This is key to developing an approach that immerses young people in a world of rich learning experiences that will take them beyond following instructions to finding, framing and solving interesting and challenging problems as the focus of their everyday school lives.

At the 2017 Global Education and Skills Forum, some of the world's great leaders and thinkers assembled to consider what schooling could and should be. The common theme was clear that we need to be thinking much differently, now and for the future. One of the speakers captured this beautifully and succinctly, with a simple question, "Shouldn't schooling be about growing great human beings?".

So how do we go about "growing great human beings"? The good news is that there are already inspiring things happening in schools and classrooms around Australia, as teachers and school leaders drive innovation and transformation from the ground up.

I have the great privilege of working closely with many current school leaders who are striving to turn 'what is' into an educational world of 'what could be'. These are people who dare to dream. They take staff, students, parents and other community partners at their schools on a journey with them, designing learning experiences that connect disciplines, are authentic and involve students in understanding complexities and differing viewpoints as a means to solving problems and generating ideas.

They embrace an approach that generates deep learning, involving students in situations that demand and grow creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, cultural understanding and community building.

Students in these situations are developing a better awareness of their own strengths and areas for growth. The exciting thing is, that these approaches go beyond the academic to include character building, ethics, integrity, relating to others and learning how to thrive and contribute in an increasingly global context.

The challenge for national and state leaders is to encourage practitioner-led and profession-generated approaches and dispense with traditional systems, strategies, policies and thinking about schooling. This will enable the very best educational practice to become expected and typical in Australian schools.

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