What knowledge, skills and dispositions will be required by the Class of 2036?

Much of the debate around education has been focussed on the value of NAPLAN, government funding of schools across our three sectors (Public, Catholic and Independent) and journalism which scrutinises and directs criticism of falling educational standards in schools. As Australia prepares to enter the third decade of the 21st century there is an increasing urgency for us as a nation to review the purpose of our education in these contemporary times.

We live in a period of time where our approach to schooling through educational policy is based on uniformity, compliance, conformity, quantification (evidence-based) and competition. On the other hand, we are beginning to realise that the educational environment of the next decade recognises uncertainty and therefore relies on a capacity to be flexible, adaptive, collaborative and agile.

Our current state of education is realising inequitable educational outcomes across our schooling sectors as well as different communities across our country, a system which is still reflective of our industrial model when we have now moved to a digital knowledge economy and system, where our students need to be creative, independent thinkers and entrepreneurial. Frankly, our education system needs to be more focussed on the changing demands of the times and future, rather than a competition of standards by nations and across our country.

At Cardijn, our new strategic plan to be launched shortly is addressing the challenges of the next decade. We see the importance of learning responding to the global marketplace, preparing and training our teachers to be better equipped to support and facilitate learning in these times as enterprising educators, where we recognise the importance of empowering pathways for all our students to ensure that as a community we are able to harness influence and impact.

Staff at Cardijn have been at the forefront of understanding how the general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum can be much more significant in the approaches to learning, how we move from a primarily disciplinary (single subjects) approach to also embrace inter-disciplinary learning (subjects combining together), multi-disciplinary (subjects drawing from each other) and trans-disciplinary (subjects blending together). A great example at Cardijn is that at Year 7 we have a multi-disciplinary approach to Maths/Science/Technology (Futures Thinking), English/HaSS/RE (Global Connections) and PE/Health/Personal Development (Healthy Lifestyles). Students also have access to optional courses for the term including Artificial Intelligence, 7 STOMP (Music), Play Building to name a few. Staff are currently building on this curriculum approach for Year 8 in 2020.

Our focus is much more on preparing young people to be adaptive to problems, able to analyse and create solutions, be resilient in their own learning, where students understand themselves as learners and understand the process of learning – as learning about learning is fundamental in an information/knowledge society.

As we prepare for a national election, our questions to our politicians should be focussed on what they are advocating in educational policy to best prepare our young people for the future. I am ably reminded that a child born today will graduate from school in the year 2036. Who would like to guess what the world might be like in 17 years? All the more reason why we need to act now.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, a Catholic secondary co-educational school (7-12) in the southern region of Adelaide with a total of 1120 students and 140 staff. Marcellin is a campus of Cardijn College. It provides students in Years 10 to 12 with SACE, training and apprenticeships. It has an enrolment of over 155 students and 30 staff. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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