Modernising educational relics

Last week, Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli announced major reforms to the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in response to what the Minister says was parental, community and industry feedback on literacy and numeracy standards and the preparedness of students to enter a 21st century workforce.

This will be the first time in almost two decades the HSC will face an overhaul in what is a committed effort to address declining literacy and numeracy standards as well as responding to a demand for digital skills.

Having spent the past 40 years (including 13 at school) in education, these reforms sound like the age old rhetoric of trying to improve education by improving the test.  The reality is the HSC is a relic of the last century.  It was designed in the late 1950s and rolled out in the 1960s when the world of education work was very different.  Since the late eighties, successive governments have used school credentials as a means of somehow improving schooling.

What we desperately need is some divergent thinking because reform is not needed at the end of schooling but the beginning of it. Why are we not investing resources into establishing a solid literacy, numeracy and socio-emotional foundation in the early years? We only need to look at what is happening in Finland and their focus on student happiness or Asia where education systems are looking beyond high stakes testing.

This requires a fundamental shift of focus on education policy and the foundations on which these policies rest. Every initiative recently announced by the  minister has been tried before with words like rigour, standards and improvement becoming the norm. Where is the new thinking? Where is the innovative and relevant practice? And where is the creativity that builds and sustains a genuinely realistic understanding that today’s world is not yesterday revisited. Nostalgia makes us feel good but it ultimately kills innovation.

If our politicians are serious about ensuring students are well-prepared for the new world of work, we first need to ensure the locus of innovative practice and entrepreneurial outlook is found in each and every school. It might be externally supported but is has to be locally driven. This means trusting the profession to make those judgements for its learning community.

The HSC reforms really are a missed opportunity to bring some coherence to educational policy and radically rethink how we assess the spectrum of students’ learning and skills.

Is there anyone bold enough to relinquish such educational relics?



6 thoughts on “Modernising educational relics

  1. Spot on! We need reform at the beginning of education. The early years are vital for laying the foundation for growth in following years. We certainly don’t improve education by improving a test at the end of school education, as bureaucratic thinking suggests.

  2. Greg,

    I completely agree but your question, is there anyone bold enough to relinquish such educational relics? needs to be more pointed imho. There are many teachers willing to do so but the legislation prevents us. This is a political, not an educational challenge.


  3. I believe society’s opinion of education will have to change significantly before any politician/party changes the system for the better. Politicians are motivated by a four year cycle, pandering to a populous that is driven by newspaper headlines and “simple solutions to complex problems”. Having worked in Asia (which from my experience was VERY driven by high-stakes testing) and returning to Australia I felt very disappointed in how education is view by many Aussies. In Hong Kong it was “cool to be clever”. The kid that got 100% on his maths test was more likely to be patted on the back by his peers than shoved in a locker. Sure this is a generalization, but I think it does reflect how many in out society view education. I’m sure if you ask any teacher they have all taught students whose parents thought “Schools a waste of time”. While many in our society undervalue education (and educators) I think we have to look to the “outliers” to lead the way. To try new things. To reflect on their results and improve. These outliers will be the ones that lead the way in education…probably only after coping a LOT of flak and resistance.

  4. Agree totally Greg! The thing is mate if anyone is in a position to move mountains it is a bloke in your position. You have a better seat at the table than us Principals and teachers. Perhaps a social media campaign could be used to make change much like the online petition platforms that are around. While you are at it is there a need for multiple R.E curriculums across Catholic Dioceses when we all believe in the one God and follow the Catholic flavour of religion?

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