The latest global education snapshot shows that Australia’s 15-year-olds are failing to meet the OECD average in reading, science and maths skills, despite more than $20bn in government funding to improve student outcomes.
The Federal Government’s Quality Schools package will see a total of $310bn provided to all schools through to 2029, representing an increase in funding of 62% student. Total Federal Government recurrent funding will grow by 84.8% over this period.
While the ‘long-term decline’ described by the PISA 2018 report is likely to spark some finger-pointing, others are looking ahead to see what can be done to leverage the practices and tools that are facilitating great teaching and learning outcomes in classrooms across Australia, and the world.
Below, Iain Finlayson, Managing Director, Civica ANZ Libraries and Education, lays out his vision for Australian education in 2020 and the important role technology can play in putting teaching and learning outcomes back on the right track.
Which trends and priorities will dominate your industry in Australia in 2020 and beyond?
In the face of ongoing digitalisation, we’re seeing higher expectations placed on education to help prepare the students of tomorrow, even as budgets come under strain. Beyond the demands of readying students for a technology-driven world, there are also other trends to contend with. Growing internationalisation of our education system raises the challenge of how best to provide a high quality learning experience to people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, as well as teaching in an environment of growing social heterogeneity.
Over the next year I expect to see schools and education departments prioritising issues such as how to prepare students for the future of work and developing 21st-century skills, professional development for educators who must lead those efforts, enhancing students’ health and well-being, and access to funding. We expect to see more focus on how technology can enable schools to focus on these strategic imperatives.
How well positioned is Australia to prepare students for the future of work?
In many ways, despite the concern, Australia is ideally positioned for the future of work. We are already recognised as one of the most mobile-savvy and cloud-savvy countries in the world, with a highly skilled and culturally diverse population. However, there’s certainly a significant need to capitalise on the opportunities that are available to us if we are to remain competitive and have a good quality of life going into the 2020s and beyond.
How important is it that schools leverage technology to drive greater engagement within schools?
To see just how high the next generation of students’ expectations of technology in their learning experience are, you only have to consider the following: One in five Australian students believe physical colleges won’t exist in 20 years. So it’s going to become increasingly imperative that schools adopt more tech-based teaching and learning tools if they are to increase engagement among this new generations of students who have higher digital expectations and adequately prepare them for work and life in the 21st century. Millennials were the ones who started to drive more technology into the classroom but its Generation Z who are by far the most connected students in history.
Some examples of technologies that I expect to help increase engagement in schools include using tools that make subject matter dynamic like live polling during lessons to gauge understanding and get immediate results, or using online tools to get students sharing content and updating it as a group (co creation). Gamification continues to have a strong focus – creating competitive scenarios where points and rewards are given, increasing fun and engagement.
Technology needs to exist not for tech's sake. It needs to demonstrate how it helps supports students or how it helps schools and students meet the curriculum requirements.
How will schools leverage new technologies such as AI? What impact will this have for students?
We expect that artificial intelligence will become more prevalent in the school environment. The ideal scenario is one where we pair AI with the cognitive, social, and emotional skills and values of human beings. Some examples of how this might roll out include chatbot software assisting high school students' research by improving the discoverability of content. It can also provide better recommendations in line with their stage of learning and automatically change the learning parameters, or provide content to suit their particular level, helping support individualised learning plans.
AI will also increasingly be used to monitor student attention and comprehension, to enhance student engagement and improve overall learning performance. Accessibility for students with vision or hearing impairment can also be improved with the help of AI and in class character robots used to help younger children be more engaged in their learning.