"Those asked only to reheat pre-cooked hamburgers are unlikely to become masterchefs." Andreas Schleicher, Director Education and Skills OECD (Friday et al, 2020)
There is no dispute that the speed of knowledge development has been fuelled by the unbridled general public access to academic, scientific and technological information and many of us are all too aware of the old chestnut debate as to whether technological obsolescence correlates with the obsolescence of knowledge (Collar & Colin, 2021).
Regardless of your standpoint on this issue, the very question brings us to the juncture where we currently find ourselves, scratching our heads, as we ponder the relevance of our curricula in a rapidly changing world. Educational lodestars are at odds with the current, fixed learning structures that favour the batch-processed testing and ranking, referred to in NSW as the HSC and NAPLAN (Friday et al, 2020). Has our post-pandemic response to education taught us nothing?
Personally, I found solace in Guy Claxton's ,The future of teaching and the myths that hold it back (2021). In it, he suggests that educators, described as either Traditionalists or Progressives can, and should, co-exist. In fact, Collar & Colin (2021) go further to demand that what is required from both sides is a fundamental conceptual management of knowledge domains that actually nurture the development of competencies. More simply, educators should view their mandatory curricula as the raw material through which students can develop the transversal skills and attitudes that favour the competitiveness of global populations and ultimately, ensure a proactive participation in a 21st Century society.
This takes us back to our moral purpose as educators, does it not? Clearly, as we face our fourth industrial revolution, isn't it our objective to develop in students the capacity to aspire to a knowledge economy, not as mere users, but as generators of new knowledge and innovation (Collar & Colin, 2021)?
We can continue to discuss these big ideas but what do we educators need to do in order to develop competencies, alongside knowledge? Conceptual rigour is key, and this simply cannot be developed via mechanistic procedures. Claxton (2021) warns us that a staple diet of 'direct instruction in a knowledge rich curriculum' may be well-intentioned but falls prey to the "soft bigotry of low expectations" (p. xxi).
Collar & Colin (2021) argue that the engine of the supposed knowledge economy is 'innovation'. For students to be innovative, we ask them to be critical and creative thinkers, good collaborators, effective problem solvers and possess excellent communication skills. No doubt, the majority of educators are setting out to foster these skills. However, what do we do to support teachers in their endeavours? Surely, we offer opportunities for ourselves and teaching teams to improve theirs and our knowledge in specific domains, but what are we actually doing to teach our teachers to possess the 21st Century skills that we ask them to develop in their and our students?
What could we ask our hamburger chefs to do to turn that burger into a gourmet masterpiece?
Claxton, G.(2021) The future of teaching and the myths that hold it back. Routledge: New York.
Collar, A., Colín, C.P. (2021). Rethinking teacher competencies of the 21st Century. Academia Letters, Article 2744. https://doi.org/10.20935/AL2744.
Friday, C., Sharp, S., Cairns, A., Chua, D. (2020). A class of their own: How data makes a student more than a number. Ernst & Young, Australia.