Keep curiosity alive at school

24 January 2018

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

I have never really understood the proverb “curiosity killed the cat” because curiosity is key to learning and innovation.

Young children learn about themselves and the world because of an in-built need to know about and learn new things. I often use the example of learning to walk and talk. These are not structured activities that require lesson plans, a curriculum and homework. They are just two fundamental aspects of human development that a child acquires through observation, curiosity, persistence and trial-and-error.

We know in the early years of schooling that curiosity and play are essential to learning. It’s not uncommon to see “I wonder” boards that are filled with the most simple yet profound questions from children. The problem is that by the time those children reach secondary school, too much of the wonder of learning has disappeared. That has to change.

Singapore has had a reputation for being one of the world’s highest performing education countries. Two decades ago they embarked on a journey to transform their school curriculum. This meant that teachers were focused on covering less content in order to deepen the quality of the learning. Students were given more time to explore and deepen their learning.

In our haste to get the job of schooling done, we have become obsessed with students getting the answers right instead of asking the right questions. We urge students to develop time-management skills rather than a sense of wonder about the world, and we expect them to use their free time to finish homework rather than look further and dig deeper. The current model of schooling has become a killer of curiosity and creativity.

Students must have opportunities to explore the things that motivate and interest them. Walt Disney said curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. I hope that 2018 sees all schools exploring new paths to deliver the kind of experiences that will make learning meaningful and relevant for every young person.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

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