I was reading Dan Pink’s blog recently in which he refers to a survey by the American Association of School Administrators and Americans for the Arts.
The table draws from the ‘Ready to Innovate’ report which asked employers and school superintendents how they would rank particular 21st century skills. Interesting to note that two areas in which there is greatest disparity are communicating new ideas and the ability to solve problems.
If you look closely at the survey responses, it seems that US educators place a greater emphasis on the ‘what’ (e.g what is the issue/identify the problem) while employers are looking at ‘how’ to solve it.
How should our syllabus documents and the learning frameworks that flow from them deal with this dichotomy?
Despite a rhetoric about an integrated and balanced curriculum I believe there is a still a perception within the broader community that an academic path is more valuable in today’s world than a vocational one.
Just look at attention given to the Higher School Certificate and its high achievers every year.
I support the argument that the skills acquired through vocational education courses like problem-solving, use of technology, collaboration, communication etc encompass many of the fundamental skills required for today’s world.
Vocational courses are as intellectually demanding as most other traditional subjects. In fact, they are often more demanding given the practical requirement which demands mastery.
They need to be seen as not just easy options or alternatives for schooling as a child-minding exercise. It’s interesting to see the Tasmanian Government’s solution has been the creation of three separate facilities: a skills institute, academy and polytechnic.
My point is that the best schooling experience we can provide for today’s learner is one that does not separate but rather is a synthesis of academic subjects and vocational courses. It is bridging the gap between content and context.
Do our schools and employers really see things so differently?