The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has just released five key findings in ''Education at a Glance 2019'', a report providing a comprehensive overview of education systems in OECD member and partner countries. The publication notes some important trends shaping the future of education today, with one of the key findings being that the labour-market demand for tertiary-educated adults has kept pace with the higher supply of tertiary graduates. Of particular interests is that:
“Although engineering, manufacturing and construction, and information and communication technologies are associated with the best employment prospects and earnings, the share of tertiary graduates earning degrees in these fields remains low, on average: only 14% in engineering, manufacturing and construction in 2017, and just 4% in information and communication technologies. In contrast, more than 40% of tertiary graduates earned a degree in business, administration and law, arts and humanities, or the social sciences.”
Recently, a review of the New South Wales (school) curriculum was commissioned by the NSW Government. The review, headed by Professor Geoff Masters, chief executive of the Australian Council for Educational Research, included recommendations to reduce the number of courses, the emphasis on end-of-school exams and a merging of vocational and academic subjects. Restructuring the syllabus around attainment levels rather than year levels was also recommended, along with a view that the current curriculum is too crowded and should be updated for the 21st century.
These reports make for an interesting conversation about how we are preparing our students for life beyond school. Worldwide, the long-term employment benefits of a tertiary (university) education, including an ability to be job resilient through labour market downturns continues, and yet schools are facing challenges around meaningful and relevant learning that prepares students for life as an adult.
At St Norbert College, this time in the school academic year provides opportunities to celebrate and acknowledge achievements and awards in academics, the arts, sport, service and Catholic Ministry. At the same time, many students experience worry and anxiousness as they prepare for the final assessments for the year, as they continue to strive to, ‘be prepared for all good works’.
The daily reality of study routine, revision, learning and homework takes precedence over future plans that may still seem years away. The OECD findings may not be relevant to these immediate and pressing homework and study demands. However, the decision to make a commitment in the ‘here and now’ is a foundation for both the immediate success at school and to build habits for long term success in all careers and industries.
Regardless of how and when the structure of secondary curriculum changes, what the jobs needed in the future will be or whether or not someone will attend university, the College Values of respect, heritage, community, friendship, adaptability and commitment, provide a framework for a life of meaning and purpose, and with this, a fulfilling work life.
Mr R Dowling (Dean of Studies)