Primary school education in most nations faces peculiar challenges. In the last few decades, the way we work and live has dramatically changed, and our children are not receiving the right kind of guidance to prepare them adequately to meet the challenges that await them. There can be no argument that today’s fast paced world is intensely competitive and the dictum ‘survival of the fittest’ is more relevant than ever in the past. Regular reviews by governments, reform efforts and ongoing efforts to usher in the desired changes, progress in addressing challenges in primary education have often been slow with solutions continuing to elude us. Time has possibly arrived when every stakeholder should sit up and take stock of the challenges that the Australian primary education faces today, and bring in corrective measures for the benefit of our children and generations to come.
While there are several challenges to primary education in Australia, the following 5 challenges need to be tackled on priority.
- Raising the status of teaching as a profession
- Reducing or eliminating disparities between schools in Australia
- Designing a curriculum for the 21st century
- Promoting a system of flexible learning with focus on growth
- Identifying needs of low achievers and meeting their needs
For the purpose of this article, let us head straight to the third and subsequent challenges since the first two are more in the realm of the government while the rest are open for public deliberation.
Designing a curriculum for the 21st century
As we stated at the start, the world in the 21st century is vastly different from what it was some 5 decades ago. Globalisation and the pace at which change is accelerating along with advances in communication, technology, social networking knowledge explosion, enhanced access to information, and a wide range of complex environmental and social issues makes it imperative that our young children today, are adequately prepared to meet the challenges and take them head on to succeed in their lives ahead. Rapid changes that have impacted the employability of youngsters must be adapted into the primary school curriculum if our children are not to be left behind in the competition. That is why most of the private tutoring centres like Edu-Kingdom Tutoring Centre, have already taken actions to transform their teaching methods and curriculms to match the most recent requirements.
For decades, our curriculum has remained stagnant with no apparent efforts to usher in changes. Disciplines that are taught today are mostly isolated from each other. The emphasis currently is on mastering large tracts of procedural and factual knowledge and treating learning itself as an individual pursuit rather than a collective pursuit, which it should be. This is particularly relevant in senior secondary level which then has an influence over the curricula in the past years. Consequently, children are deprived of real world experience of school subjects when compared to those who work in those disciplines.
Concurrently, we are also experiencing a decline in popularity of subjects like science and advanced mathematics as well as a drop in the performance levels of Australian students in these subjects, compared children from other countries. Therefore, the need of the hour is a curriculum that will effectively focus on the attributes and skills needed to live and work in this century. Communication, technology, teamwork, problem-solving, using technology and kindling thorough understanding of essential principles and disciplinary concepts need to be brought into focus. Alongside, the children should be enabled to apply these attributes in real world situations.
Flexible learning for growth
Primary schools should offer flexibility in learning to suit individual learners. The focus of the present curriculum is on the year level where the students are grouped into. This needs a radical shift to remove the disparities between advanced students and low achievers. Effectively, the practice is more like the ‘one size fits all’. Legislative changes are needed to change this age-based approach. Learning should get more personalised and flexible to make it more relevant and enjoyable to effectively address today’s needs and conditions.
Low achievers must be identified at the earliest opportunity to determine typical problems faced by them and put corrective action in place. Merely stamping some children as low achievers and allowing them to carry that stamp right into the higher levels of learning will defeat the very purpose of focused education. Additionally, some children may also suffer from specific learning disabilities. Identifying those disabilities early on will be a huge help for those children. Thankfully, there are many experts outside the school system who can effectively guide these children and help them push ahead with their learning rather than become drop-outs.
From the above discussion, we have already seen the inadequacies in the primary school education currently available to Australian children. As individuals, we lack the ability and authority to bring in the desired systemic changes. Yet, each one of us, concerned as we are, of the future of our kids, must explore ways to fill the void between systemic inadequacies and hard realities of the modern world. Professional tutors have the ability to impart skills necessary for the modern world, without conflicting with the existing system. Consequently, our children will be better equipped to face the challenges that lie ahead for them, while also mastering improved learning techniques.
Many of the old school thinking and systems have become obsolete today. But, that cannot be an excuse to deny our children their due place when they grow into adults.