2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.
The goals are designed to promote equity and excellence in Australian schooling and ensure that all young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.
In 2008, when the Declaration was made, Anthony Mackay was on the National Curriculum Board, which was instrumental in deciding the path that Australian education would take in the years ahead.
Mackay has chaired the boards of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and directed the board of the Australian Council for Educational Research.
Most recently, Mackay was the CEO of the Centre for Strategic Education, but from 1 January 2019, he will take on a new challenge in educational leadership, both globally and locally when he becomes CEO and president of the National Centre on Education and the Economy in Washington DC.
‘A local and global race’
According to Mackay, there is a race on – locally and globally – to prepare young people to learn a living in a globalised, digitised and complex world.
“This requires an education system with strengthened goals and an urgency to ensure we provide an education worth having,” Mackay told The Educator.
“It needs to be human centred, building capacity to be complex problem solvers. The purpose of learning and what and how we learn is the dominant international dialogue.”
Mackay says this dialogue is informed by the success of high performing education systems drawing on advances in the learning sciences and systems thinking.
“Our learning environments need to become more powerful and productive with learners exercising their agency,” he said.
“Pathways to further learning need to reflect a new world of work and we need the learning profession to drive this most important endeavour for our economy and society – for our individual and collective wellbeing.”
The new drivers in education
According to Mackay, the transformation of Australia’s education system is now inevitable.
“We have learnt a lot about how to improve schooling. Now we are learning how to transform our learning system. All other sectors in our economy and society have been undergoing enormous change. Innovation, experimentation and constant adaption to change is essential,” Mackay said.
“Harnessing the power of technology and investing in our people is crucial. Our success, viability and sustainability depend on more far reaching reform – incremental reform is necessary but not sufficient.”
Mackay says Australia’s education system needs to employ both the current practices of an evidence-informed profession and “a serious investment” in the learning sciences, futures thinking and in more serious partnerships and collaborations.
“Learning is everybody’s business – government, unions, early childhood centres, schools and universities, industry and not for profit organisations. Australia needs a vibrant learning ecosystem,” he said.
‘Transformation requires leadership’
When it comes to how principals should navigate the major challenges facing Australian education, Mackay pointed to the need for “leadership of a different order”.
“School systems around the world are being pressed to deliver new and broader learning outcomes (new measures of success) to prepare young people for an uncertain world of work and life futures requiring the creation of work rather than seeking work,” he said.
“It is therefore essential to engage learners in learning that is deep and meaningful, building 21st competencies.”
Mackay says Australia needs new and current leaders prepared for “the central challenge of improving learning and leading complex change”.
“Leadership development focussed on preparing leaders for system change has become a priority across high performing systems,” he said.
“There is an emerging shared agenda – to rethink leadership capabilities; to design approaches to leadership learning characterised by learning that is high quality, deeply personal and at scale; and to build team capabilities, collective purpose and relational trust.”
Mackay says this form of leadership needs to be enacted across all levels of the system.
“There needs to be a commitment to constantly evaluating the impact of innovation and the effectiveness of the implementation of our change agenda,” Mackay said.
“There needs to be a commitment to a ‘profession-led’ learning system – producing learning that is powerful for all young people.”