Principal calls for major refocus of education debate

Principal calls for major refocus of education debate

While the topic of school funding is an important conversation to be had, it is distracting from the bigger issue of preparing students for the future, says Dr Paul Browning, who is the principal of St Paul’s School, located in Queensland.

Speaking on Sky News’ AM Agenda this morning, Browning called for a refocusing of the education debate.

“It’s disappointing that we’re always debating money when it comes to education, and that seems to get all the media coverage,” he told AM Agenda.

“What we really need to be talking about is our vision for education as we move into the future, and that’s the missing piece in the debate.”

Browning said that while he hoped the Federal Government’s recent $18.6bn Gonski 2.0 funding package would address fairness, inequity and transparency, the conversation had to shift to “where we’re heading as a nation”.

“There’s a lot of rhetoric around the fact that within the next decade, 50% of the jobs we know today … will be replaced by new jobs that will need high levels of creativity, an entrepreneurial mindset, and high levels of interpersonal skills,” he said.

“These are the things that are missing from the debate – how are we preparing or children for the jobs of the future?”

In an interview with The Educator, Browning explained how his own school giving its students the edge in this dynamic and challenging future environment.

Two years ago, Browning initiated what he describes as a “significant scenario-planning project” which he believes is one-of-a-kind in a school context.

The project involved interviews with more than 30 thought leaders from around the world that specialise in politics and education. Each contributed towards crafting a vision of future scenarios students are likely face to face in the year 2028.

“We looked at the world of 2028 when our youngest children will reach Year 12 and graduate from school. We discovered 82 trends that were emerging, and we were able to map out those trends fairly easily,” he explained.

“However, we discovered two critical uncertainties that could impact schooling and education as we know it today. One of them was employment and the other was ICT and the impact that it will have on education.”

Browning said these two crucially important areas are the focus of current efforts within his school, which established a centre for research and innovation in 2009 in order to refine and tailor the school’s programs to its strategic vision.

Over that time, over 130 schools from around Australia and New Zealand have come to observe how the school has been improving teaching and learning.

“If you look at the statistics and the research, Australia is an innovative country, alongside places like the US. However, we always seem to laud the fact that we’re not doing particularly well in mathematics, science and English in comparison to places like China or Finland,” Browning said.

“Conversely, our entrepreneurial and innovative capacities are right up there amongst the world’s best, so we really should be capitalising on that and building it into our schools’ programs to support young people with those skillsets.”