The future of education needs to start now

Woman wearing a purple tshirt with the word 'congress' on it speaking into a microphone on a lecturn

 

We are experiencing a world-wide upheaval.

This is a turning point in history and the world will not be the same again.

There will be negative effects from this which will potentially see the divide between rich and poor increase. There will be positive effects which may see people moving away from consumeristic society and becoming more reflective.

The scary thing right now is that we don’t know.

What we do know is what’s in front of us right now and education is high on my priority list.

I have three primary school aged students and I’m the Executive Officer for Victorian Student Representative Council, the peak body for school aged students. I think about school and education nearly all the time but I have noticed that my current thoughts have been focusing on results, tests, access to devices and internet, how I’m going to keep my three children off screens all day while I try to keep up with my full time job.

But what I haven’t been thinking about is learning.

Now is the perfect opportunity for all the key people involved in educating children and young people to work together and focus on how we can collaboratively create a learning environment that ensures children and young people are getting what they need, that teachers and schools can continue to oversee education and provide expert advice, and that empowers families – children and their carers – to lead the education experience.

I was comforted by the words of Victoria’s Premier and Minister for Education as they outlined what seems like a solid plan to ensure year 11 and 12 students can complete their school year and move into further education and employment. I heard promises that all students will receive internet access and devices as needed to learn at home as well as the option for students who could not learn at home to have a safe place at school.

I heard the strong message of “school will look different but our education goals remain the same – just focus on studying so you can get good results.”

But what if the goals shouldn’t remain the same.

We can come up with plans for how students can continue with assessments in formal studies but how are we going to assess their mental health? Or their social skills? How will we support them to develop their agency and leadership? How do we support them to think beyond the now and continue to develop skills that will help them navigate and thrive in a changed world?

We don’t know what the world is going to look like in 12 or 18 months so maybe we should be shifting our focus to what we do know. Working with our young people to tackle some of the big issues the world is facing rather than treading water till we get back to … what?

Formal education is already lagging behind what is needed in the real world. Students, education experts and industry has been telling us this for years now.

And now, we are experiencing a long term massive threat to our health, economy, social systems – yet it’s business as usual for education.

Now is the time, more than ever, to give students the control of what education could and should look like. We need to ask them what they need to stay engaged in learning and be prepared to support that as best we can.

Now that Victoria has a plan for the short term to keep our children and young people learning, let’s turn our creative and innovative minds to the long term and build a sustainable, flexible education system that prepares our children and young people for the real future but also for the right now. And let’s do it together – government, families, teachers and most importantly, students.

Nina Laitala

VicSRC Executive Officer

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