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Education's sacred cows

Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia, called for the urgent need for a complete rethink about education at the second Australian Learning Lecture.

“There should be no taboo topics. Everything should be on the table, and we should challenge the core ideas that we hold dear,” she told the audience.

She identified three sacred cows that needed to be challenged. These included reviewing university entry requirements; reconsidering attitudes to homework and recognising that a classic classroom academic model will not be the best approach for everyone.

“The ATAR is about making it easier for universities to pick students, it is not focused on giving students a learning experience that allows them to reach their full potential,” Ms Westacott said.

“While education is the great leveller, homework, a foundation of our schooling system, is often the great divider. It’s a test of who is at home to help you and many kids today, as I experienced in my childhood, have parents at work or parents without the capability to help,” she added.

Ms Westacott said that while a rethink is challenging, Australians needed to be challenged because often a fundamental rethink is seen as too hard, resulting in a convenient excuse for inertia.

“A fundamental rethink does not mean it all needs to be done at once. We can take incremental and careful steps,” she said.

Her view is that the Australian education system currently, through mechanisms like the ATAR, drives everyone to focus on preparing young people for the next qualification.

“What we really should be preparing them for is life – to realise their potential and have life of purpose and fulfilment,” she said.

Her full speech can be downloaded from: http://bca.com.au/media/australian-learning-lecture-2017