Important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st

In one of my uni courses this week we were asked to reflect on the question: “What do you see as some of the important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st?”.  It’s something I often think about but here are some of my thoughts at present.

71878108_709b04c40d_mIn July of this year, I attended the annual Ann D Clark lecture at Penrith’s Joan Sutherland theatre.  This year’s speaker was Presidential Chair and associate dean for Global and Online Education, Yong Zhao.  Yong was very thought-provoking and inspiring and spoke a lot about current aspects of education and curriculum and how they are not necessarily appropriate for the need to create entrepreneurial and creative students.  He raised some very valid points and in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, he dedicates an entire chapter to why a common curriculum and set of standards will not help our current and future generations of students.

The mission statement provided in the newly implemented Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of the US indicates that one purpose for its implementation is “to compete successfully in the global economy” (Zhao, 2012, p. 26).  Should the 21st century curriculum and other aspects of education be focused on the economy?  Well, I guess that it is the economy that keeps jobs alive and generally helps society to keep going as it has for so long.  Zhao also goes on to delve into the newly implemented Australian National Curriculum, and when he compares it to the US CCSS he finds that they have very similar rationales, being that they intend to create “equity, efficiency, and quality for all students to compete successfully in the global economy” (Zhao, 2012, p. 28-29).  The globalisation aspect for education and curriculum appears to be critical in the eyes of some.  Does the Australian National Curriculum foster and enable this?

3620335406_691b16543e_mWe are in the knowledge management age and that of globalisation as well so I believe personally that education, and certainly the National Curriculum, should provide opportunities for students to enter into this world with the knowledge and skills needed to be creative and entrepreneurial citizens.  Chinnammai (2005) says that students need to become global citizens, “intelligent people with a broad range of skills and knowledge to apply to a competitive, information based society” (p. 1).  Does the new national curriculum provide a broad enough scope of skills and knowledge applicable to an information-based society?  I don’t think so, I think it is far too content heavy and that students and teachers alike, get lost in the content and learning for the sake of exams, that they do not develop the necessary skills required by a global citizen.

Chinnannai (2005) also points out that “The introduction of technology into the classroom is changing the nature of delivering education to students is gradually giving way to a new form of electronic literacy , more programs and education materials are made available in electronic form, teachers are preparing materials in electronic form; and students are generating papers, assignments and projects in electronic form” (p. 2).  However, what guidelines are included in the national curriculum to guide the expectations of what students should be able to do with technology when they leave school, in order to be global citizens.  I believe that technology is a critical part of 21st century education and beyond.  Any national curriculum should include a continuum of skills that students develop as they progress throughout their schooling, that will guide their acquisition of technical skills required when they leave school.  It can’t be all content focused, we have to be realistic about what they crucially require when they enter the workforce and other study areas.  I therefore also believe that 21st century education systems, and certainly the national curriculum, needs to provide scope for differentiation and individualised pathways of learning and development to cater for all students’ needs, abilities and future endeavours, regardless of a special needs or giftedness.


Chinnammai, S. (2005, November). Effects of globalisation on education and culture. In ICDE International Conference.

Zhao, Y. (2012). World class learners. Educating creative and entrepreneurial students.

Feeling challenged. Think outside the box? There is no box.

Tonight I got the wonderful opportunity to go to the inaugural Ann D Clark lecture, hosted and organised by the Catholic Education Diocese, and was inspired by the wonderful presentation given my Dr Yong Zhao.  I’ve been feeling really challenged about many things lately professionally and tonight’s presentation couldn’t have come at a pretty time in some ways, it was thought-provoking and poignant.  The key messages that were conveyed and expressed were definite conversation-starters, however, I am someone who needs time to think it over and make sense of its significance in my head and in writing before I’m capable of articulating in full, the impact it potentially can have on me.  So this is why I write.

Dr Zhao’s presentation left me with these key words ringing in my head… creativity, entrepreneur and talent. These stuck in my my mind because of the implications they have to myself, but also to my students and how I teach them.  Dr Zhao said that what we have created is an education system that embodies the second machine age and that we have moved into a society that requires new talents and skills, but yet we are still teaching within the parameters of the old paradigm.  Its something that I hear often, and that is, we are preparing our students for jobs that do not yet exist.  How do we radically shake up an education system that teaches in a way that may be more harmful than good?  Dr Zhao even went so far as to say that we are an education system of “reduction, suppression and homogenism”… successfully stifling creativity, which = job security and a future of independence.

Creativity has long been something I’ve wanted to see cultivated, harnessed and encouraged more in students, they have so much of it when they are small.  However, Dr Zhao presented data that shows how the creativity of children gets snuffed out quickly by the education system.  Why is that?  I’ve noticed it myself in my own professional practice and its something I was lamenting about only today, even before I heard the lecture.  The organisational structures, culture and politics that we are all so entrenched in, stifles our creativity as teacher because we have to meet deadlines, report schedules, be at meetings, teach to exams/assessments, ensure outcomes and hours are met and so much more.  Where is the space for us to be creative?  If we are not creative, how can we model it and facilitate it, create more opportunities for it with our students?

The idea of entrepreneurship is one I haven’t yet heard very much coming out in education circles, well at least not in secondary ones.  Jobs of the future, and very much of the now, are going to be ones that our students create themselves.  They will see a need and create businesses and services that meet that need.  What the Internet has done for the globalisation of jobs, knowledge and skill sharing and provision of services to others is simply phenomenal and in the future, it will become the reigning ‘workplace’.  Have you considered what you could earn and the reach you could have if you had a YouTube channel that provided a series of valuable videos for a particular audience who watched it religiously?  What do you think you could earn?  Well, Pewdiepie is estimated to be the top highest earning YouTuber as of March 2014, earning an estimated $7 million per annum.  You might think he does something really important on YouTube to earn this… nope.  His video titles include: “Seagull Horror”; “Classy goat! Goat simulator”; and, “Fetus pics”. Have a read of this article from Celebrity Networth to find out how ordinary people are earning big bucks doing nothing.

It was very interesting when Dr Zhao highlighted the fact that now, more than ever, people are becoming famous for doing nothing.  He essentially said that nothing has become something and we love to consume nothing products and nothingness.  He went on to make the point that “whoever can create choice becomes really valuable”.  How can we create more choice?  In school?  In universities? In employment?  What does it look like?  Zhao pointed out that those who can differentiate themselves from others will be of even greater value, they will have something others don’t but need.  I kept thinking as he’s saying these things, how can I be this as a teacher and as a leader of technology within my school?  How can I be creative and create choice?  How can I prepare teachers who still have years left of teaching, to teach the digital natives that are coming through to us with more knowledge at their fingertips than we have ever been able to absorb ready to regurgitate to them?  What will it look like for me to not just think outside the box, but to think… there is no box and never was?

“The old paradigm is not only irrelevant, it is harmful.  Today, education requires we foster creativity and entrepreneurship.” Dr Yong Zhao.