Literacy isn’t the only capability, it’s one of 7.

In March 2018, a report called Through Growth to Achievement Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools was published. This report was authored by Mr David Gonski AC after the Australian Government established the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (the Review) in July 2017.

There were 300 submissions from teachers, principals, professional associations, teachers unions, parents and carers, school systems, state and territory governments, researchers, universities, community organisations, and business and industry. One of those to offer a submission was the South Australian Department of Education who wrote,

“Strengthening the development of the general capabilities is critical to the national innovation and skills agenda. Further work to identify effective teaching strategies must be underpinned by sound measures and assessments of the full range of the skills covered by the curriculum is needed.”

The general capabilities figure prominently in both the report, known as #Gonski2 and ensuring discussion since its release. There has been a call from some to explore how best to interweave the general capabilities among subject areas, or thematic studies which combined learning areas. At St Luke’s Catholic College, a preschool to post school learning environment of sixteen months old, this is already happening.

As part of #Gonski2, there has been much criticism of NAPLAN and the intense concentration on Literacy and Numeracy, often at the exclusion of other important learning areas and general capabilities. NSW State Education Minister, Mr Rob Stokes, has used this as an opportunity to consider new ways of assessment; that is, moving from high stakes testing which compares states and schools, to a raft of diagnostic tools which are easily accessed so teachers and students can make real time decisions about ‘next steps’ for their learning.

#Gonski2 has produced great conversation, discussion and dialogue with meaningful leaders offering differing viewpoints, but all healthy discussion nonetheless. One question that keeps coming up is “How do you assess the general capabilities?” More specifically, I have heard, “How do you assess creative and critical thinking when creativity is so contextual?  For example, creativity in the scientific sense is different to creativity in the visual arts area. Yes it is, but that’s the point! To deepen our understanding of how to develop the general capabilities, we need to wrestle with these questions rather than continue to work where the next silver bullet for literacy and numeracy is.

All in all, I have reflect… We have all heard of the saying, “Winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing”. Replace the word ‘things’ with ‘capabilities’ and, one could say,

“Literacy isn’t the only capability, it’s one of seven general capabilities”.