It’s been difficult to ignore the recent post-PISA media coverage. And if you are to believe the loudest voices in the discussion, a return to ‘back-to-basics’ education will guarantee Australia’s future success in the rankings. Thankfully there are those like Professor Yong Zhao who continue to interrogate PISA’s ‘magical’ powers over policy-makers. Furthermore, PISA continues to measure a very ‘narrow aspect of education’ (still rooted in an industrial model), which may harm the broader purpose of education. Yong also cites research showing a negative correlation between high PISA scores and student wellbeing.
What is clear from the media commentary is that politicians continue to take the PISA bait as part of the quick fix mentality.
How do we ensure young people are equipped to meet the challenges of the future? By designing a new learning framework that speaks to what it means to be a learner and teacher in today’s world. As I have been suggesting, this learning framework must reflect the work of teachers as researchers, collaborators and, co-learners. It must also address the equity and resourcing issues to ensure that every child has pathways to success. It must also leverage strategic partners to help deliver the best learning opportunities and experiences in an ever-changing and digital world.
I believe the challenges facing schooling are more cultural than instrumental. Teachers working collaboratively, informed and directed by a unifying framework, are in the best position to respond constructively to the challenges and opportunities that accompany massive technological and social change. Teachers and students are best served by the type of cultural leadership that promotes and defines a new and relevant educational narrative.
The task of the teacher is not just adding value; it is about knowing the learner and enabling that learner to take the next step on the individual journey. As educators in today’s world, we need to live up to the rhetoric of lifelong learning. It means continuing to build a robust profession that can critique and critically reflect as well as develop new ways of working that meets the needs of new generations of students.
Above all, there needs to be excitement as we collectively explore new ideas and issues – refusing to be distracted, mislead or deflated by concerns like PISA rankings that have never been part of the fabric of teaching or central to the professional task of teachers.