Yesterday, today and tomorrow

My thinking and understanding on the education process has been influenced to some degree by the renowned American psychologist, John Dewey. What makes this an interesting statement is that Dewey was an education reformer – but over 100 years ago!

Currently, we are displaying one of his most famous quotes. While he was reflecting and commenting on the education system of the late 19th century, his words still ring true today:

You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow’.

-John Dewey

Nearly everyone you speak to has an opinion on the way in which we should be teaching the students who sit in our classrooms. Quite often the media drives this agenda making sweeping statements on the standard of education and the need to teach like they did twenty or thirty years ago.

Our landscape today, however, is so much different than it was even ten years ago (yesterday). Arguably the rise of technology has had an enormous effect on education – knowledge is now at our fingertips, the world is now ‘small’ and we can watch events and act in ‘real time’ no matter where we are. I can write so much more about this but our reality and the context in which we now operate as a school (today) is so much different to what you would have experienced.

At GGLPS we have taken up the challenge of John Dewey – how do we prepare our students for tomorrow, what sort of skills/knowledge will they need to participate positively and creatively in their community?

Firstly we need to ensure we are covering the mandated curriculum (Australian curriculum) as expected by the Commonwealth government. However, while this is an expected base of knowledge to be taught, we challenge the students through a process of inquiry to develop a level of understanding of what they are learning – what are the connections they can make, how is it relevant to them, how they can apply this knowledge so that it is meaningful to them? As Einstein states, ‘..any fool can know. The point is to understand’.

To participate and contribute effectively in society, students need to develop a set of attributes, dispositions or characteristics that will stand them in good stead. Employers are increasingly expecting that employees have such qualities and skills as respect, an inquiring mind, risk-taking, collaborative work practices, principled, open-minded.

In a previous article, I wrote about the ‘smallness’ of our world; we seemingly live in a world that has few geographical boundaries. Skills are needed to live and work in such a world – it is essential that we move from local to global competence.

There is much more that could be written about how we can prepare our students for ‘tomorrow’. A visit to any of the Connected Schools will more than likely show you how this challenge is being addressed – classrooms with different types of furniture and arranged in groups, students working in groups, the teacher not at the front but in with the students.

To finish with John Dewey, ‘Education is not an affair of telling and being told, but an active and constructive process’. I trust that our students will be prepared for tomorrow through the education that they have received today.

Shane Paterson
Golden Grove Lutheran Primary School

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