The Future of Australian Schools

How Schools can best prepare students for a complex digital future

The education curriculum and classroom settings need to be completely transformed if Australian schools are to adequately prepare students for the accelerating technological revolution, business futurist and innovation expert Craig Rispin says.

Programmed invited Rispin to speak to the company’s team of educational professionals, as he brought his deep understanding of emerging business, people and technology trends to the realm of Australian schools.

It’s impossible to forecast the future of Australian schools without first understanding what the environment will look like within the next few years. But one fact remains, according to Rispin  – no matter which industry you’re in, the learning environment has changed more in the last three years than in the last three decades. To quote Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”. The pandemic accelerated change that was already happening at a breakneck pace.

This rapid technological evolution dubbed the “fourth industrial revolution” signals a future for students and young people that is monumentally different to present day. But schools aren’t teaching students the skills that are needed in the drastically altered modern workplace, Rispin says, though he points out the lag isn’t with Australia’s diligent and under-resourced teachers, but the curriculum teachers use. The true crisis, according to Rispin, lies in an outdated school system and under-utilised expert advice.

Referring to the unprecedented change that’s already afoot, Rispin points out that an 18-year-old today will have at least 17 different jobs and five brand new careers emerge in their lifetime – a fact that the traditional schooling format is not prepared for. To be qualified for a professional job, an Australian student will typically have to wait four–and –a –half –years after completing their full-time study to attain a full-time job. That’s up from one year in 1986. Perhaps we should be decreasing time spent in schools, and rather, prioritising education on the job.

Rispin outlines a number of alarming statistics on how underprepared students are for the workforce upon leaving university, particularly with the unprecedented doubling of human knowledge in the face of completely new technologies. Inventor and visionary Buckminster Filler created the ‘knowledge doubling curve’, where he observed new knowledge doubling every century up to the 1900s. That doubling now happens every 12 hours. Indeed, information students learn today could be outdated by the time they graduate.

The changing face of the workforce and the rising emergence of part-time and gig economy jobs – that is contract, temporary or freelance jobs where pay, rights and working conditions lag behind that of stable employment – come at the expense of full-time jobs, which mean many young people are left underemployed.

But it’s not all bad news. The technological transformation is creating more jobs than it’s destroying – Microsoft foresees the creation of 149 million more jobs in the digital realm of privacy trust, cybersecurity, data analysis, and artificial intelligence – while the ‘great lockdown of 2020’ is accelerating the digitisation of jobs. And this is just in the digital realm – there is a net creation of new jobs in the physical realm of construction and infrastructure jobs as well.

Rispin outlines a best-case scenario for the future of Australian schools, one that will happen if schools completely transform what they do starting now and where technology isn’t just a nice-to-have, but a must-have. Rispin’s best case scenario encompasses evidence-based teaching programs and learning systems and industry connections and apprenticeships being embedded from as early as grades six and seven.

And there has never been a time when the adage ‘learning never stops’ has been more true. Micro-credentialing, also known as nano degrees, are being increasingly accepted by more and more employers in lieu of traditional methods of schooling and higher education.

Click here to access Craig Rispin’s video that contains an overview of where Australian schools are headed and some of the best possible scenarios for the future of education. Rispin has over 20 years’ experience working with some of the most innovative companies in the world in IT, consumer electronics, and broadcasting industries.


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