Does NSW still need a School Certificate in the 21st century? September 13, 2010Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Secondary Education.
Tags: curriculum, NAPLAN, standards testing
In this post, Margaret Vickers examines the changing context of secondary education in NSW and the potential for the recently announced review of the NSW School Certificate to modernise the secondary school accreditation.
The basic architecture of the NSW system of secondary education was established almost fifty years ago, and some of its key features are still with us today. One of these features is the Year 10 School Certificate. Under the Wyndham plan, NSW established a four-year program of comprehensive education leading to the School Certificate, followed by a two-year academic program designed to prepare a talented minority for the Higher School Certificate and University admission. Despite the huge economic and social changes of the past five decades, NSW still divides secondary education into two phases and concludes the junior phase at Year 10 with state-wide formal assessments. In contrast, between 1968 and 1985, every other state in Australia abolished the Year 10 certificates.
The reasons behind this nation-wide shift away from Year 10 qualifications reflect major shifts that can no longer be ignored, and it is possible that NSW will soon find itself moving into closer alignment with the other states. In May this year a Review of the School Certificate was announced by the NSW Board of Studies, and its terms of reference open up all sorts of possibilities. In every state and territory across Australia, the school leaving age has already been raised. National targets have also been set, proposing that 90 percent of all young people should complete Year 12, or an equivalent qualification such as an apprenticeship. From 2010, young people in NSW will also be required to remain in school or in some form of structured training until they are 17 years old.
This creates a contradiction. Since the average age of a NSW student at the end of Year 10 is 15 years and 9 months, most students will now be staying on long after they have completed the School Certificate. However, a considerable number of these young people may not complete Year 12. What will they do, between the end of year 10 and the day they leave? What will they gain in return for the additional months they are staying on? It seems that there may now be a need for an exit qualification that recognises what students have actually accomplished at the time they do leave school.
Several other factors have also contributed to the need for a new approach. First, with the NAPLAN in place at Year 9, there is less justification for a formal academic assessment at the end of Year 10. Second, young people are seeking greater flexibility in the timing of their studies, with some undertaking senior academic or vocational courses in Year 10. Thus, the boundary between the junior and senior phases is being blurred. Third, there is a growing trend towards the recognition of out-of-school achievements (in employment or community service) as part of a new certificate of school achievement. While there will be no change to the School Certificate in 2010, all sorts of possibilities are opening up for the years ahead. If you want to read more about this, or participate in the debate about the future, go to: www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/schoolcertificate/sc_review
Margaret Vickers is Professor of Education in the School of Education and Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She specialises in secondary education policy and post-secondary education pathways.
The teacher as ‘leader-networker’ September 1, 2010Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Educational Leadership, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: curriculum, educational leadership, personalised learning, technology and education
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In this post, Steve Wilson extends the argument in his initial post on this blog, ‘The evolution of the 21st century school’, by suggesting that we need a new metaphor for the 21st century teacher – the ‘leader-networker’. This piece is from a broader article currently under construction.
To understand the metaphor of ‘leader-networker’ for the 21st century teacher, we should briefly consider common metaphors for the 21st century school. Traditionally, the school has often been compared to a ‘factory’, or a ‘family’. More contemporary metaphors for the school have included a ‘community’ and a ‘learning community’. Within these respective metaphors, the teacher might be conceived as the ‘manager’, ‘parent’, ‘mayor’ and ‘facilitator’. Each of these metaphors does capture something of the traditional roles schools and teachers have undertaken and developed in 20th century society, but they do not provide an insight into the necessary evolving role of the school into the 21st century.
In my view an appropriate metaphor for the 21st century school is the school as a ‘network’. I like the metaphor of the ‘network’ because it captures the complexity and context of contemporary schooling. It neatly builds upon and extends the current metaphors we employ to describe the school. Effective schools are certainly ‘communities’, and the good ones are ‘learning communities’. However, in the 21st century it is the effective construction of ‘networks’ which forms the basis of these communities. Within classrooms, teachers develop networks of learners through team, cooperative learning and whole-class approaches. They create networks of student learning across classes. In effective schools, the teachers form networks between each other, sharing and cooperatively planning practices and experiences. Within the effective contemporary school, networks are the fundamental building blocks to community.
It is fair to say that in most contemporary schools, the extent of the networks they create end at the school gate – that is, the networks are contained within the school. That is the characteristic of the 20th century school – it is generally a self-contained system that, when operating effectively, has developed successful internal networks which focus on learning and which involve both teachers and their students. In some cases, schools have formed complex and effective learning networks in their broader community, with families, social agencies, other learning institutions, and employers. These schools are evolving the characteristics of the 21st century school.
A critical event occurred in the 1990s – the development of the internet – and has progressed with extraordinary pace since that time. It has expanded the notion of the ‘network’ to the point where the concept of ‘network’ has become a ubiquitous social reality. The impact of global digital information transfer and the internet, and their application to social and professional networking and commercial and retail activity, has been nothing short of astounding. In many respects, schools have been exempt from this impact, but this will not continue. Digital technologies and tools will vastly expand the ways in which schools network, and with whom. The 20th century notions of the self-contained classroom and the self-contained school will be eroded, and our teachers and school leaders will need to develop the skills of the ‘leader-networker’.
The question is not if these expanded and digitally-enabled networks will assume critical significance in the learning practices of schools, but how. Our young people, our students, are already highly networked outside of school and routinely access digital information to engage in real-life and ‘real-need’ learning. Our school-based educational leaders (and indeed, all those in wider hierarchies whose roles are to support the school) need to become consummate ’leader-networkers’ to ensure that digitally-enabled networks are used to enhance quality learning outcomes for children. Few of us are yet sure how these new networks can be utilised to meet the challenges of 21st century school education – it is the school-based ‘leader-networker’ who is best placed to develop these understandings.
I am therefore happy to argue that an appropriate metaphor for the 21st century school is a ‘network’, and the teacher and school leaders need to be viewed as a ‘leader-networkers’. For me, the metaphor of the ‘leader-networker’ captures the leadership role the teacher must maintain in classroom learning in a way that metaphors such as ‘negotiator’ seem unable to do. This metaphor also maintains the best elements of the ‘learning community’ metaphor, because genuinely accessible networks have many of the characteristics of effective learning communities. More importantly, I like the metaphor of the ‘network’ because it is an inclusive term which allows for complex relationships, of various types, to exist. As such, it includes our students as part of the network (indeed, conceiving of school-based learning networks without the participation of students becomes a nonsense). Attributing our students the quality of ‘learning networkers’, this metaphor encourages our students to help to drive the network and contribute to its collaborative work in knowledge construction within the 21st century school.
Steve Wilson is Head of the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.