St Paul’s School principal Dr Paul Browning said the Federal Government’s inquiry into Innovation and Creativity: workforce for the new economy had laudable aims but was flawed while its terms of reference focused only on tertiary education.
“It is not merely the tertiary sector that should be examined from the perspective of growing the workforce’s creative capacity,” Dr Browning writes in St Paul’s School’s submission to the Federal inquiry.
“Western economies are going through a hollowing‐out process of middle‐class jobs. These jobs are being automated or off‐shored at an increasing rate. The emerging jobs require high levels of creativity and an entrepreneurial capacity.
“Furthermore, increasing amounts of research indicate a capability gap between the skills and mindsets of students emerging from our schools today, compared to those they will need to perform the jobs of tomorrow.
“It is imperative that we begin to regard creativity and entrepreneurial skills as part of what counts in education today. For this reason, we believe the terms of reference for this inquiry should be expanded to include primary and secondary schools.”
Dr Browning said it was disappointing that the office of Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham had reiterated recently that primary and secondary education would not be considered by the inquiry.
The Minister’s office stated that a curriculum review was recently completed. However, Dr Browning says this misses the point.
“The issue isn’t the curriculum, it’s what we prioritise. Schools and teachers are developing an unhealthy fixation on having to achieve improvements in literacy and numeracy at the detriment of creativity because a school will be named and shamed if they don't,” he said.
Dr Browning said schools could make changes while remaining within the bounds of the national curriculum. He said St Paul’s School was proactive in fostering creativity and innovation within its students, pioneering several programs including the design of a new subject in the Junior School called Immersion Studies Time.
“The truth is, it’s possible to foster creativity within the current curriculum. You can do this by releasing the pressure created by standardised testing and providing professional development for teachers to help them nurture and grow a person's natural creative abilities,” Dr Browning said.
“We’re not saying that testing isn’t important – students need to learn how to read and write – but this fixation on standardised testing as the ultimate measure of a ‘successful’ education is not healthy.”