Education must prepare young people both for active citizenship in a democratic society and for purposeful engagement with the labour market. This is vital at a time when trust in democratic governance and institutions is at a low level and cognitive technologies are transforming the future of work.
Young people are increasingly anxious about the uncertainty of their futures. The profound disruptions of COVID-19 have heightened that unease. They sense that normal life is unlikely to be fully restored. Economic recovery is likely to be slow and patchy. Working remotely, from homes or hubs, has shown the potential benefits and weaknesses embedded in how administrative and professional staff undertake their work.
School leavers do not just need to be employable. They need to be adaptable, flexible and confident. Education must provide students with the essential attributes they require for lifelong learning in whatever fields of endeavour they may choose. The professional and applied skills they need will change significantly over their lives. The jobs they do will be transformed. Some, driven by entrepreneurial ambition, will want to set up their own businesses. Most will switch careers.
The necessary elements of change are clear. But the manner of their implementation must be determined by state and territory governments and education authorities for public, Catholic and independent schools. There needs to be a national response but it must be responsive to place-based expectations and local needs.
Australia’s federal system of government has the proven capacity to generate a valuable diversity of ideas and approaches. Each jurisdiction is well placed to work out how best to take these actions forward. The conduct of the recently established National Cabinet has shown the value of Australian governments setting directions in a collaborative manner but with each state and territory implementing decisions in their own ways, responsive to their own particular circumstances.
This report makes 30 findings on the current senior secondary pathways arrangements and 20 recommendations on helping young people navigate their senior years and enter further study or the workforce.
- All students should expect that they will be supported to meet the minimum literacy, numeracy and digital literacy proficiency standards, which are the foundation for success beyond school.
- There should be agreement on a common language across the entire education and training system for what are variously described across sectors as general capabilities, employability skills, soft skills or graduate capabilities.
- Once the common language is agreed across sectors and jurisdictions, appropriate standards should be developed to allow the evidencing, within the schooling sector, of the capabilities necessary for employment and active citizenship, building on the Foundation to Year 10 capabilities, but focused particularly on Years 11 and 12.
- All students – including those seeking university entry – should be supported to undertake career education and work exploration at school, through workplace learning, work skills courses, and/or undertaking applied subjects such as design and technology.