Envisioning Education: What does the future hold? An Australian Principal’s thoughts

There is much in the literature that attempts to frame what it is that students in this century and beyond need to be able to think, say, and do to function effectively and compassionately in a global world. All educators aim to prepare students (and adults) for a world where the only constant is change.

Many observers will claim that little has changed regarding formal education methodologies for over 200 years. Those of us in education in Australia, however, know this not to be the case. School structures and classrooms, curriculum, pedagogies and assessments have all changed considerably. So much so that I often hear parents comment “I wish I could have learned like that”. We know so much more about how people learn physiologically as well as psychologically that the nature of an instructional class in Australia is completely different to that of the 20th Century. When teachers open their doors to others to share practice, which I confess happens far too rarely, these developments become obvious.

How do we know we have effective classrooms in a country such as Australia? Research has shown that the highest performing cohorts in the world are the children of first generation migrants into Australia. To me this indicates that the importance placed on the value of education, which many migrants have for their children, when combined with the Australian education framework produces outstanding results. I believe this also represents a window to the future regarding approaches to curriculum, pedagogy and assessment that Australia can share with educators globally.

Likewise models of education have also changed to meet the (perceived) needs and desires of families.  Knowledge can be accessed and assessed anytime anywhere and I have no doubt that this trend will continue. There is much discussion in educational circles of micro credentialing that may or may not sit alongside traditional qualifications. I suspect models of knowledge and skill development and their assessment will become increasingly flexible in terms of timing of delivery (global and interactive) and nature (on-line, face to face, blended).  The range and nature of providers is likely to increase even more.

In Australia all providers of primary and senior secondary education academic certificates must be not-for profit. The provision of early childhood, vocational and other skill based training, however, has opened up and I suspect we will see increasing numbers of corporate/for-profit players in the education space.  Globalisation is already ensuring new models of provision to meet the demand from communities as well as opportunities for providers.

A key component of education all around the world will need to be the development of intercultural understanding. Frequent references to 21C skills refer to global citizenship (see Council of International Schools, Partnership for 21st Century Learning, Australian Department of Foreign Affair and Trade, The International Baccalaureate however, there is little common agreement as to a definitive list of attributes that constitute these 21C skills. It is, therefore, important for schools, teachers and students to have a common understanding of these priorities. Education providers need to devise programs that recognise the importance of global citizenship education, international mindedness and intercultural and transcultural understanding if we wish, as many of us do, to make the world a better place.

Globalisation affords us both opportunity and challenge in terms of creating curricula and programs that scaffold educators and students to, in the words of Yong Zhao:

“Become more aware of the global nature of societal issues, to care about people in distant places, to understand the nature of economic integration, to appreciate the interconnectedness and interdependence of peoples, to respect and protect cultural diversity, to fight for social justice for all and to protect the planet for all human beings” Zhou 2010

One thing will never change, however, and that is the teaching of skills and knowledge that relate to knowing one’s self and relating to others. We believe the cornerstones of wellbeing are having strong identity, relationships and community. Schools will always need to provide a basis to develop and nurture all 3 elements of wellbeing as well as what it means to be the best person one can be.

At St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar we strive for our students to be their best selves, now and in the future, for the betterment of all humanity and the planet through demonstrating COURAGE: to do the right thing, CURIOSITY: to know and learn, CHARACTER: to be one’s best self and RESPECT: to live wisely and compassionately with others and the planet. I am convinced that if we can do that at St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar, we have done our job.

About the Author

Annette Rome currently works as a Principal of St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar in Melbourne. Though trained as neurophysiologist, her interest in education includes the education of young people to be global citizens that operate ethically and knowledgeably. Her current project entails researching International Mindedness and the International Baccalaureate’s Theory of Knowledge.

She was coordinator of the CSE International Education Action Group, Indigenous Education Focus Group and is an adjunct lecturer at The University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education. She has written a number of science and education resources and books and presents at national and international conferences.

She was on the Science Teachers’ Association of Victoria Council and Orica Corporate Affairs Division (Education). She is an International Baccalaureate Jeff Thompson Research Award winner and was honoured to be appointed a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators and the Australian Council of Educational Leaders.

In 2018 Annette was named on The Educator’s Hot List in Australia. She is a founding member of the James Macready-Bryan Foundation and an active member of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders, Australian College of Educators and the Principals Australia Institute Change Team. She has been a Director on the Boards of The Australian College of Educators and the music education charity, The Songroom.

She has been an active campaigner for the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme, implemented in 2015, with a particular focus on young people with acquired brain injury. Her passion in education is for the development of young people so that they may become the best they can be – true citizens of the world.

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