The future of schooling and what might be…

On Wednesday 15 March, Chevalier College hosted a community forum for parents and carers about the future of education and what that might mean for Chevalier in the next 3-5 years. As part of that there was acknowledgement that the current education system was designed for an industrial world, meaning schools were first developed as a response to the demand for a literate and numerate workforce to operate the new machines and factories.  

Schools of a Industrial Age:

  • Emphasise the key features of standardisation and uniformity where students are expected to learn the same material, at the same pace, and in the same way, regardless of their individual needs, interests or abilities.
  • Have the goal of producing a large number of workers with the same basic skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to work in factories and other industrial settings. 
  • Provide a curriculum with core subjects which have few connections between them with little development of collaboration, communication, learner agency, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 
  • Adopt a classroom setting which replicates the factory setting with rows of desks and where learning occurs in a highly structured and hierarchical manner to follow instructions, work efficiently and conform to rules and regulations. 

We now live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Ambiguous and Complex) world. The world has changed and education needs to move with it. As part of a new world which requires agility, flexibility and responsiveness, the post school world of work requires students to provide evidence of more than just a mark or grade to demonstrate how they contribute to a team, a project or a cause.  

One source of information shown at the forum was a question posed last year by St Paul’s, Brisbane. The question was, “In your workplace/company, what what Realms of Thinking dispositions/skills are you looking for when you employ staff?” 

For schools to be able to provide the space and time for students to nurture and grow such dispositions/skills requires schools to provide a more flexible, adaptable, and personalised approach to learning, one that emphasises capabilities such as creativity, collaboration, problem solving, learner agency and lifelong learning.  

At one stage during the forum, I asked parents, “Can schools better prepare students for this rapidly changing world?” Their response?

The percentage did not change as we reached the near capacity of 108 attendees.

As part of sharing some ideas as to how Chevalier might address the need to better prepare students for a rapidly changing world there was acknowledgment that we may need to provide time for students to understand their S.I.M.; that being their strengths interests and motivations so they can better understand who they are, what they can do and what problems they might want to solve. In other words, interrogate their purpose so they can find their place of meaning in the world. There was also an exploration of how we can better use technology to amplify and even accelerate the learning by embracing the opportunities that come with immersive technologies such as virtual reality as well as generative artificial intelligence including ChatGPT. 

I walked away both enthused and excited by the engagement of parents and carers and was extremely appreciative of the time each gave to participate in the presentation. I also pondered the need to question, even challenge the current paradigm of education – after all, it has well served many generations of Chevalier students. So, I thought I would ask ChatGPT this question, “Is it important for schools to challenge the norm of industrialised education?” Here is its response… 

Yes, it is important for schools to challenge the norm of industrialised education. The industrialised education system, which was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was designed to prepare students for factory work and to meet the needs of a rapidly industrialising society. This system emphasises standardised testing, strict adherence to schedules, and a one-size-fits-all approach to education. 

However, the world has changed significantly since the industrial revolution, and the needs of society and students have evolved as well. In today’s knowledge-based economy, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability are essential skills that students need to succeed. Thus, schools must adapt teaching methods to meet the changing needs of students and society. 

Challenging the norm of industrialised education means embracing new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. This might include personalised learning, project-based learning and interdisciplinary approaches to education. It also means focusing on the individual needs and interests of students, rather than trying to fit them into a standardised model. 

By challenging the norm of industrialised education, schools can better prepare students for success in the 21st century. They can foster creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that will enable students to adapt to the rapidly changing world around them. 

Not too bad for a first draft? 

I can see a day when an adaptive curriculum, scaffolded and supported by machine learning, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, acknowledges students not by age but by ability. I imagine a time when learning is assessed a surface, deep and transfer rather than reduced to just grades, marks or an ATAR – one mark on one day!

Such respect given to students may lead us to explore new models of learning and new structures for schooling which use time wisely and facilitate learning which is relevant and real-world.

Greg Miller  

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