From the Principal

How do you know if you have been educated?

Some answers might be:

  • I can read and write → Literate and numerate
  • I passed my exams → Able to show what I know/have learnt
  • I went to University/TAFE/Got a Trade Certificate → I know how to learn

That was in a world where an education looked like this:

That was the educational model of my youth (along with a certain amount of physical “remediation” via the cane) and, hey, it worked for me!

I would be happy to oversee it as the basis of today’s education (minus the corporal punishment bit) if it still works for your children and their future.

Will it?

I also know a lot of adults want us to be more traditional in our approach to education – to move back to the basics. Back to the education they knew and “survived”.

The traditional approach insisted that all students be taught the same materials at the same point; students that did not learn quickly enough failed, rather than being allowed to succeed at their natural speeds. The 3 Rs Plus: What schools are Trying to Do and Why, Robert Beck.

Traditional Education Mode

  1. Teachers have knowledge to share with students
  2. Authoritative lectures
  3. Clear and distinct rules
  4. Quiet rows of desks
  5. Students take notes
  6. Textbooks, workbooks, pencil, paper
  7. Rote, repetitive
  8. Grade motivated
  9. Standing teacher at front.

I know a number of politicians have seen back to basics as a vote winner over the years:

  • “Australia’s national school curriculum will return history, grammar, literature and phonetics to the classroom, in what Prime Minister Kevin Rudd describes as a “back to basics” approach to education.” SMH, 2010
  • “A back to basics national curriculum that drills students in literacy and numeracy during the first three years of schooling will be considered by the nation’s education ministers this week. Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne will ask his state and territory counterparts to ­endorse a simpler and “parent-­friendly” curriculum with a “narrow core” of subjects in primary school.” The Australian, 2014
  • “The Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has endorsed new research which suggests the UK’s Year 1 phonics screening check should be rolled out across Australian classrooms, after pledging to promote a back-to-basics approach to education in the May budget.” SMH, 2017.

Lucy Clark in her book, Beautiful Failures, addressed this issue: “People are reluctant to ‘experiment’ with their kids and so they play it safe. Politicians often think about short-term fixes and what can be achieved while they are in power rather than thinking long-term.”


What if the question was “How do you know if your child is being educated so that they can be successful in  the second or third decade of the 21st Century?

According to NESA CEO David de Carvalho, our school and the syllabi they work under must be “designed to equip NSW students with the skills they will require after they leave school, for further study, work and life.”

Geoff Gallop, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney, believes an educated person in the 21st century will be one who can survive and thrive in a “new” world: “The world in which we live is always changing-climate and the environment, science and technology and politics and economics all see to that. Yesterday’s solutions inevitably become today’s problems or, at the very least, today’s irrelevancies. Educated people have the capacity to adapt and innovate as individuals or organisational leaders. This capacity to adapt and innovate is the practical side of having an inquiring mind.” What is an educated person?

What they are talking about is an education that focuses on:

  • Student centered/Student engaged activities
  • Collaborative Teaching/Cooperative Learning
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Development of Higher Order Thinking Skills
  • Using technology as a tool (not just a toy)
  • Fun
  • Hands-On
  • A multidisciplinary approach
  • Real-Time and Real-World ideas and problems
  • Being flexible in approach

So, there is a great arm wrestle going on over education, with both sides declaiming the other’s approach.

“Australian workers, their bosses complain, have such poor literacy and numeracy skills many can’t do simple sums, give clear directions, or type on a computer keyboard.”


Why doesn’t education modernise? “Despite the push for schools to innovate, the whole system remains stuck in the Industrial Age, churning out a steady stream of generic, and at times functional workers, but not always balanced individuals.”

Now, in my opinion:

  • Literacy and numeracy are essentials in any education (Note to self: “You are showing your background bias by always putting literacy first”).
  • All teachers should have a firm grasp and knowledge of the areas they teach
  • Classrooms have to be safe to be good learning places
  • Great teachers make all the difference

What if we were “brave” enough to decide what we need to keep, what is still valuable from the traditional style of education, and add to it the skills and approaches that suit our emerging world?

While we are at it let’s make leadership a focus of our education because we are most certainly going to need great leaders.

So, let’s focus using the educational experience to develop the leadership skills that will allow our students to:

  • have the inner strength to make decisions and to take personal responsibility for the consequences of those decisions
  • enable those whom you lead to be innovative problem solvers without feeling threatened by their success
  • be able to buffer and protect those you lead from distractions and impediments so they may carry out their responsibilities unimpeded by those distractions
  • have the ability to turn mistakes into “teachable moments” rather than “blamable moments”
  • know when to step back to give opportunities for those in your charge to take the lead, while understanding that ultimate responsibility rests with you
  • understand that leadership is a way of life and therefore unbound by the time constraints of the school or business day/week.


Maybe then we will produce the people who will find the “answers” to the next set of world challenges/problems/issues.

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