Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
The review by David Gonski into the quality of Australian schools was released last week. The report confirms what many working in education have known for decades: that our current model of schooling is outdated and we need a radical new approach to schooling that ensures every child is learning every year, and that what they learn is relevant for their world.
It is refreshing to see, at long last, both sides of politics in agreement that our education system is not delivering what our young people need. We can now have serious discussions at local, state and federal level about learning and teaching in a contemporary world.
For some school communities, the kind of learning model recommended by Mr Gonski is already underway. In many of our schools, for example, teachers are already designing experiences that are aimed at personalising the learning based on what students know and need to know. As the review points out, this cannot be done without teachers being able to regularly diagnose the learning needs of each child and adjust their teaching strategies to respond to those needs.
The review also recommends that all students be given a unique number so that teachers and schools are able to track each child’s progress across their entire schooling journey. This would help to create greater accountability within and across schools so that we don’t have students slipping through the cracks when they change schools.
What excites me about the review is that we may finally see teachers given greater freedom to teach by focusing less on the delivery of a packaged, age-based curriculum and more on accelerating individual student growth. When we think of a curriculum as something more than just facts, figures and the same cohort, we are encouraging every student to learn through inquiry. We are also giving every student a say in what they learn and how they learn.
Let’s hope this review doesn’t end up on a bookshelf like so many others have. As the Gonski panel said, the work of radically overhauling an outdated system will be difficult but “we cannot let the challenge of delivery daunt our ambition.”
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta