Ron Gorman, director of the Association of Independent Schools WA (AISWA), told The Educator that private schools have got it right when it comes to providing students in the 21st century with a relevant and holistic curriculum.
Gorman’s remarks follow a recent study titled ‘Does school type affect cognitive and non-cognitive development in children?’ which prompted headlines portraying private schools as no better-off than public schools when it comes to academic benefit.
The study was based on measures of cognitive development by the Australian Journal of Labour Economics using students’ NAPLAN results.
However, Gorman says that the focus should instead be on areas of 21st century learning such as knowledge building, critical thinking and problem solving.
“If we are focusing on NAPLAN as the measure of success, we’re actually focusing on the wrong thing,” Gorman told The Educator.
“NAPLAN plays a part in that but there is a great tapestry of ways that schools effectively communicate – not just to parents but with the students themselves about their learning and about their progress.”
Gorman pointed to “well-researched findings” from organisations such as the World Economic Forum, OECD and the University of Twenty, which did meta-research on requirements for academic success in the 21st century.
“There was some very interesting research done by Charles Friedel from the Centre for Curriculum Redesign who talks about the significance of developing character to help young people face the present and the future,” Gorman said.
As a result of this research, Gorman said that independent schools are focused on students’ problem-solving,
creativity, critical thinking as well as social and cultural confidence “in a shrinking global environment”.
“They’re the things that independent schools are really looking at,” Gorman said.
Aside from offering curriculums based on cutting-edge research, Gorman explained that independent schools also provide parents with a wide array of choices when it comes to what kind of learning experience they want their child to have.
“When you look at the range of independent schools, it covers a vast array of religious, philosophical, community and care schools, such as curriculum and re-engagement schools,” Gorman said.
“It’s not a case of all independent schools being the same. There are over a thousand independent schools around the country which offer quality learning catered to their needs, whether they are gifted in the arts or in other areas.
“As independent schools, we’re looking at how we can give the best opportunity for students’ potential to be exposed through schooling - and certainly that post-school space - for young people.”