I recently attended the Whitlam Institute Seminar to debate the question of ‘why education reform is so hard?’
The perspectives presented called for greater transparency around outcomes, higher levels of accountability for schools, a focus on the early years of learning and VET pathways.
I find these forums stimulating and frustrating. There is certainly stretch in the propositions presented, yet there is rarely time to depth the issues. I suppose this is the nature of the beast.
I found myself getting increasingly annoyed – not at the presenters but at the proposition itself, which influenced and constrained their responses. I don’t think the issue is about reform. For me, the reason why education reform is so hard is because we’re asking the wrong questions.
As Marc Prensky intelligently asks ‘why continue to reform an outdated system?’ You need an entirely new approach to schooling.
For the past several decades, education around the world has been undergoing some sort of reform. Successive governments continue to pronounce reform and go as far as introducing a ‘revolution’.
The resignations of two high profile US reformers late last year - Joel Klein in New York and Michelle Rhee in the District of Columbia is further evidence that reform is not producing the transformation of learning and teaching.
On the home front our schools are still operating from a 20th century model of education which, as we know, has seen little change over time.
I think a more powerful question to ask is ‘what is the nature of schooling in today’s world?’ or even ‘how do we need to rethink schools in a contemporary world?’
We need to engage in a broad conversation and collectively build a new narrative for schooling that is focussed on how students learn best in today’s world.
The prevailing culture of structures, industrial conditions and competitiveness does not serve contemporary schooling well. We live in a connected world where schooling is but one option for learning. We live in a world where schooling now extends beyond the traditional boundaries of the building and the school day. In short, we need to move from a narrative of schooling to a narrative of life-long learning.
I’m excited by how school communities will respond to this challenge because in time, we will see widespread innovation. The profession will accept greater responsibility for shaping this narrative and policies will support not stunt this new approach to learning and teaching.