Right now, there is more discussion than I can ever remember about the structures of education. It seems that currently everything is on the table: the HSC, NAPLAN, the NSW Curriculum, vocational education pathways ... it is very clear that the chorus of voices calling for schools to dramatically change is growing louder all the time.
Governments are often risk-averse, and this means that the pace of change can be very slow, if it happens at all! I am heartened that so many people are acknowledging that schools need to be made more relevant for all young people and that structures that were okay in the 1970s and 80s are not okay now. But do we have to wait another 40 years for things to change? What about the young people at school now who are disengaged because they don’t see what they are learning as relevant? How do we give them meaningful career options post-school?
When Skyhooks were singing about ‘Living in the 70s’, the career options for young people were more straightforward - it was essentially ‘the books or the blocks’: uni or a trade. It was also easier for schools to provide helpful career advice for their students. There were lots of ‘known knowns’ then; not so now. As technology continues to transform everything, new skills and new mindsets are needed.
With the HSC done and dusted for another year, young people are thinking about what comes next. Many will be unsure about what they want to do or how to get there. Please remind the young people in your life that it is perfectly okay to not have a clear direction. There are many pathways, almost unlimited options and the timelines are much less important than they once were. Books and blocks are fine, but so are trying different things, working to save and trying out a few ideas of their own.
The calls for change are growing louder. It’s time for big decisions. It is a responsibility that governments and decision-makers cannot afford to ignore. We owe it to the young people in our schools right now, as well as those who will follow, to create schools that are relevant for them now and equip them with the skills, knowledge and experiences that will allow them to do big things.
Greg Whitby is the executive director of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta. Follow him on Twitter @gregwhitbyLearn more about Greg