Behind the Scenes of my Latest Piece in the Age

Open-Cover-211x300As soon as I downloaded David Price’s book Open: How We’ll Live, Work & Learn in the Future  I thought, “There’s a story here!”

In short, Price suggests that globalisation and technology has impacted the world’s workforce and economies in ways that, for the most part, education has failed to grasp.

For the piece I had the pleasure of interviewing teen prodigy Jack Andraka, who at only 15 developed a revolutionary test for Pancreatic Cancer, using Google and Wikipedia to develop his theory. He gave me a wonderful quote:

The internet doesn’t care about your gender, race or religion, it’s a place where only your ideas count, and we can use it to help people around the globe to innovate and change the world.

Whether you agree or disagree with his position is another matter, but it is a lovely notion isn’t it?

As an aside, I’d originally planned to open my piece by saying, “Jack is sixteen. In the past twelve months he’s perfected his origami technique, designed a device to make kayaking safer, and just for good measure he’s developed a revolutionary test for pancreatic cancer.”

He got back to me… “Actually Dan, I did the dam retrofitting stuff in Grade 9.” – GRADE 9!!!

David Price and I enjoyed a long Skype conversation around his education philosophy and the process of writing the book and he takes issue with the political approach to education reform, particularly the notion that we are involved in some kind of education race.

[The] kinds of skills – demeaned by politicians as ‘soft’ – are exactly the skills that Asian and South American students don’t have – yet. But with China radically changing its curriculum to foster creativity in its students, and Singapore and Korea abandoning rote learning in favour of project and inquiry-based learning, we haven’t got long.

So we want to be more like China – but they want to be more like us??

If there is some kind of education race, it seems everyone is running in different directions!

It was also great to get input from current teachers doing innovative stuff in their schools.

Jenny Luca from Toorak College and Raymond Trotter, the principal of Wooranna Park Public School – seriously if I was a primary teacher in Melbourne I would be knocking down their door to work there – spoke about the ways they engage kids as well as the need for innovative leadership – rather than a back to basics approach.

Unfortunately Christopher Pyne, the minister for education declined to comment on the questions I posed, so if you see him (or you get on Q&A) could you ask him:

1. When you say, you wish to deliver a curriculum that “parents expect” what exactly do you anticipate that looking like?

2. In a world where kids can learn pretty much anything they want, anytime they want via the internet, what role do you see teachers as having in the coming years?

3. How relevant do you think school is for kids today, given that – increasingly through globalisation – we’re seeing that academic performance is no guarantee of success, as workers overseas – across a whole range of disciplines – can do as good a job for a lot less?

4. What will be the defining difference an Australian education provides in order for our kids to compete on the international stage?

You can read the full piece in the Age here. Like it, Tweet it… you know what to do!

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