Understanding the Needs of Tomorrow’s Schools and the Future Workforce

As the Senior School transitioned towards the new academic model this year, I have frequently referenced the work of the Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, Andreas Schleicher. St Catherine’s parents will be familiar with the term Schleicher used to critically reflect on the current Australian Curriculum, thus he described it as “a mile wide and an inch deep”. This view shaped much of our thinking in choosing to refine the offerings in Years 7 to 10 and to deepen the girls’ understanding through additional timetabled lessons across the four core subjects – Mathematics, English, Science and Humanities.

This year, Schleicher’s commentary focuses around what the Fourth Industrial Revolution could mean for education and jobs. He considers it much easier to educate students for our past than for their future and notes that parents can be uneasy when children learn things that bear no resemblance to the study that once was important. The dilemma for education is that the kinds of things that are easy to teach and test have also become easy to digitise, automate and outsource. School assessment increasingly demands students’ application of their deep learning and acquired knowledge to problem solve, critically evaluate and ultimately challenge assumptions, with the rote learning of content largely outdated and unnecessary.

Schleicher highlights in his recent work that there is much we know about the global megatrends that shape education, and much has been written about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, most notably the Future of Jobs Report 2018 produced by the World Economic Forum. A focus of the Report is on arriving at a better understanding of the potential of new technologies, including automation and algorithms (currently St Catherine’s offers Algorithms as a specialised Mathematics coding elective in Year 9).

At the same time, the wave of technological advancement is set to reduce the number of workers required for certain duties. New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others.

With the St Catherine’s Strategic Intent – Vision 2020 nearing its expiration date, the School Council, Senior Leadership Team and teachers will commence the necessary consultation, research and subsequent development of the framework for the next strategic plan, carrying us towards 2025 and beyond. Understanding the needs of tomorrow’s schools, and importantly the broader trends of education and the future workforce, will need to shape the thinking that underpins this strategy and framework.

Some of the key questions on the horizon for schools, as expressed by Schleicher, include:

  • How do we continue to build a strong foundation in early childhood education, achieving the right balance of cognitive, social and emotional competencies?
  • How do we address the changing landscape of teaching and school leadership through effective recruitment, professional growth and development?
  • How does education take advantage of the tools and strengths of new technologies while simultaneously addressing concerns around potential misuse such as cyberbullying, loss of privacy and illegal trade in goods and activity?

Asia has replaced Europe as the most popular region of destination, attracting approximately two million migrants each year. This migration brings more diversity to classrooms, and it raises important questions:

  • How can schools better serve students from various social and cultural backgrounds? And what does this mean for teaching citizenship and identity?
  • What responsibility do schools have in teaching the values of society?
  • How do we deal with ‘brain gain’ and ‘brain drain’?

Education has won the race with technology throughout history, but there is no guarantee it will do so in the future. The future is about pairing the artificial intelligence of computers with the cognitive, social, and emotional skills and values of human beings. How will we ensure our imagination, our awareness and our sense of responsibility will harness digital innovation to shape the world for the better.

Schleicher comments:

“Tomorrow’s schools will need to help students think for themselves and join others, with empathy, in work and citizenship. They will need to help students develop a strong sense of right and wrong, a sensitivity to the claims that others make, and a grasp of the limits on individual and collective action. At work, at home and in the community, people will need a deep understanding of how others live across different cultures and traditions, and how others think, whether as scientists or artists. Regardless of the tasks that machines take over from humans at work, the demands on our knowledge and skills to contribute meaningfully to social and civic life will keep rising.”


Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal

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