A tough bal­anc­ing act

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

Know­ing how best to es­tab­lish an ed­u­ca­tion plat­form and di­rec­tion that equips so­ci­ety to deal with op­por­tu­ni­ties and pit­falls of ev­ery­day life must be one of the hardest as­sign­ments for any govern­ment.

So much is at stake. Get it com­pletely right and ev­ery­one’s a win­ner. Get it com­pletely wrong and the im­pact can crip­ple a coun­try. Get it some­where in be­tween and it’s prob­a­bly the norm.

Ed­u­ca­tion plat­forms rep­re­sent a bal­anc­ing act in find­ing the best pos­si­ble for­mu­las to ex­ploit the po­ten­tial of the ma­jor­ity while pro­mot­ing ap­pro­pri­ate path­ways and sup­port for both high and low achiev­ers.

One of the great dan­gers in es­tab­lish­ing any tar­geted di­rec­tion in ed­u­ca­tion, where pro­vid­ing more at­ten­tion to a spe­cific field of study than another, presents a dan­ger of po­ten­tially ‘throw­ing the baby out with the bath wa­ter’.

We as­sume our na­tional and state ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers have their heads well and truly around this ob­vi­ous ob­ser­va­tion.

Read any­thing about pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion at the mo­ment and the

push is all about sup­port­ing, pro­mot­ing and mak­ing sure our next gen­er­a­tions excel at science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics – col­lec­tively known as STEM.

STEM seems to have al­most be­come a catch-cry of con­tem­po­rary ed­u­ca­tion lit­er­a­ture.

Push­ing our youngest and bright­est in this broad di­rec­tion makes a lot of sense for all sorts of rea­sons.

It stands to rea­son that if we want to be a smart nation full of smart peo­ple we need to be able to kick all sorts of goals in the science and tech­nol­ogy depart­ment – it’s log­i­cal and some­thing we whole-heart­edly sup­port.

But ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tion must be based on an un­blink­ered ap­proach and in­volve clear recog­ni­tion that we, in un­der­stand­ing about what makes us hu­man, can’t af­ford to throw other im­por­tant fields of study onto the sac­ri­fi­cial pyre.

Sure, we have to draw a line in the sand about what sub­jects are the most im­por­tant in the class­room. Of­ten this comes down to some­thing as sim­ple as find­ing a fu­ture job.

But we still have to com­mu­ni­cate well, re­flect on his­tory to gain gen­eral knowl­edge, un­der­stand law, busi­ness and peo­ple and how teams work, be fit and healthy and be able to let emo­tional ex­pres­sion off the leash.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that through­out the cen­turies the most suc­cess­ful and tech­no­log­i­cally advanced of cul­tures emerged amid a back­drop where the arts as well as science flour­ished.

In truth, many cul­tures con­sid­ered and still con­sider science and art one and the same.

Again, we sup­port the na­tional push for Aus­tralia to be­come a STEM bench­mark in­stead of an also-ran – but not at the ex­pense of other ar­eas of learn­ing.

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