Australia needs to rethink the way it teaches its students, supports teachers and runs schools, as the current education system does not fit its purpose, according to a new discussion paper by think tank the Grattan Institute.
Towards an adaptive education system in Australia says that, despite individual bright spots, overall student performance is declining in international tests, and an unacceptably high number of students are not ready for life after school.
Australian school education faces three major challenges: to improve student learning in core academic areas; better prepare young people for adult life; and close the gap between the nation’s educational have and have-nots, the report states.
The only way to tackle all these challenges at once is to make Australia’s education system more adaptive.
“At present, the system is spinning its wheels,” said Grattan Institute School Education Program Director Peter Goss.
“The status quo is not working. We have failed to create an education system that adapts and improves over time – a learning system that systematically learns.”
The study shows that student outcomes improve when teachers track how much their students are learning, identify the specific teaching practices that boost learning and then adapt the way they teach.
Is suggests Australia should make better use of its most expert teachers, having them cut back on student classes in favour of instructing other teachers how to identify and practise the best ways to improve student performance.
The system leaders, including education ministers and departments and the heads of the Catholic and independent sectors, need to ensure schools and teachers have good access to the evidence about what works best, and the time, tools, training and support to implement these best practices in the classroom.
“If we want to halt the decline and create a system of excellence that supports all students, we need a new approach to reform,” Dr Goss said.