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Traditional subjects ‘insufficient’ for Google age

The disciplines are important but they are no longer the whole story

The disciplines are important but they are no longer the whole story


TEACHING the traditional subjects alone is no longer sufficient preparation for students leaving school, an international researcher into “21st century skills” argues new skills are vital.


University of Melbourne education researcher Patrick Griffin said the upgrade in skills required of students in the information age was akin to the change faced by workers at the time of the Industrial Revolution.


“The disciplines are important but they are no longer the whole story,” said Professor Griffin, who led the international research project on the assessment and teaching of 21st century skills.

“We need new skills to make sense of what we learn; we need to be able to evaluate and critically appraise both the information we are given and also the source of the information.”


Professor Griffin was responding to a speech last week by one of the nation’s most senior education officials, Tom Alegounarias, in which he dismissed the push to teach generic skills rather than traditional subjects.


As reported in The Australian, Mr Alegounarias, a board member of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority and president of the NSW Board of Studies, argued the general capabilities described in the national curriculum had to come after teaching students the facts in discipline-based subjects such as English or history. The national curriculum outlines seven general capabilities, “essential skills for 21st-century learners in literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology, thinking, creativity, teamwork and communication”.


Professor Griffin, director of the assessment research centre in the university’s education faculty, said the general skills must be taught in the context of the subjects but must be explicitly taught.


He said technology had gone further already than the community might be aware. “As industry moves more to team-based workplaces, these skills become even more important and schools and curriculum developers can’t afford to let them pass us by.”
Deputy chairman of the National Catholic Education Commission, also an ACARA board member, Brian Croke supported Mr Alegounarias’s argument that the generic skills had to be taught in the context of the subjects, saying education was always about knowledge and skills.


“It’s when you try to isolate one from the other that you get into trouble,” he said.

From: The Australian

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