The Ideas Boom

Posted on August 1, 2016

For the twenty years to 2008 Australia experienced continual growth and prosperity. The boom years of 2000-2008 were built on Australia’s mining sector. The last five years of the Howard government saw household disposable incomes soar by 22 per cent. In 2008 all that changed. As a result, for the last eight years we have experienced a suppressed economy, a decline in disposable incomes and an increase in unemployment.

The Federal government recognises the need to shift the focus of our economy to ensure our future prosperity. To this end it has established the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The “Ideas Boom” is the public mantra. For our nation’s survival and growth we need to become a nation of innovators.

To achieve this vision we need to transform our education system. The existing system was designed at the beginning of the industrial era, when young people were trained for a job for life. It is predicted that today’s graduates will have at least eight career changes in the lifetime.  The skill set they need to not only complete, but to thrive, is a very different skill set to the past.

Al Gore published a very compelling book in 2013 titled, “The Future.” He outlines six drivers of global change which are converging to push humankind into an era of change like non other experienced in the whole of history. The world will be transformed. Within the next decade half of all the jobs we know of today will be gone, replaced by artificial intelligence and robotics. In their place new jobs will emerge, but currently only 20% of our population has the skills to fill those new jobs, or create their own.

Just last year elected MPs Clare O’Neil and Tim Watts published a book which contains a thesis not unlike Gore’s. Their work, “Two Futures: Australia at a critical moment” describes the tremendous opportunities facing us, as long as we get on board. To become a nation of innovators we cannot continue doing the same as we have always done expecting a different outcome. We need to embrace a transformation of many parts of our lives, including education.

To achieve the vision for the Ideas Boom the government is asking schools to have a stronger focus on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and teach young people how to code. They recognise that these are important knowledge and skills areas that will allow us to compete as a nation on a global stage. However, I argue that this is not enough. Not every child wants to code, or loves science.

Einstein once famously said, “I don’t burden my memory with facts that I can easily find in a textbook.” In today’s world a young person has access to all the knowledge the world has to offer in the form of their smart phone. And who is to know what the next technological advancement will be?

Many say that biology and technology will start to integrate. If this is the case, then what is the point of schools and education as we know it?

To become a nation of innovators schools need to transform the way that they teach and equip young people to become agile and resilient, who have an entrepreneurial mindset and an innovative spirit. These are the skills and qualities they need to be successful in tomorrow’s world. You don’t achieve this by approaching education in the same way as we have for generations. You can’t tell people to be resilient, to be innovators, or to imagine a start-up. You have to prepare and equip them.

The good news is that St Paul’s School is future orientated. A rigorous research project through its Centre for Research, Innovation and Future Development has resulted in a compelling vision for education in 2028.

As any good innovator, St Paul’s research and prototyped new teaching methods to equip young people with the thinking, knowledge and mindsets they need to face an uncertain future. As a result it has implemented five unique Learning Realms across all ages and subjects: creativity, design thinking, entrepreneurialism, global sustainability and inquiry.

But it is our conviction that all schools need to be transformed. To achieve the nation’s vision and shift the economy to one that is driven by creativity, innovation and service all schools need to embrace new ways of teaching and learning. The changes have to extend beyond the focus on STEM and coding.

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