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Bronwyn Lee & Learning Creates: Learning Beyond Limits - Future-ready approaches show what’s possible amidst increasing strain on school system

Young people are more than their ATAR; let’s make sure our education system reflects that. Out of the 300,000 young people each year who could have completed year twelve, the system is set up to focus only on the roughly 100,000 who aim for a direct university pathway.


Congratulations are certainly in order for the young people who achieve outstanding results. They have achieved so much and should feel proud. However, we know that young people are so much more than their ATAR rank and that this alone can only get them so far. Into their first year of university, to be exact.


Automation, globalisation and more flexible work have transformed work and the needs and demands of employers. Young people deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated for skills and capabilities that align with this. We all aspire for young people to have an engaging and enriching school experience, to know and build their strengths, and to develop their capabilities. We want them to feel like they belong, have the knowledge and confidence to embark on any future they choose, contribute as citizens and achieve their hopes and dreams through various pathways.


This is not about giving all young people leaving school a prize; it’s about ensuring that we aren’t focussing on a narrow view of success, but rather one that will set young people up for the future.


We know that in the 21st Century, we can recognise achievement in far more sophisticated ways than exams or test scores alone to reflect the breadth and depth of what young people know and can do. The good news is that schools across the country are working to recognise skills and capabilities beyond ATAR metrics; promisingly, this approach is already showing good outcomes.


In December 2023, Learning Creates Australia released a new report Learning Beyond Limits: Insights and learnings from visionary schools and communities working toward a fit for purpose learning system. In collaboration with diverse partners from across Australia, it highlights educators who are challenging the status quo to deliver better results for more students in the long term.


This very early research shows that recognising more is delivering positive results for students and teachers alike. It shows that students become more engaged in learning when future-oriented skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, ethical behaviour, resilience, and communication are acknowledged alongside foundational skills and knowledge.


This approach also benefits teachers. They have shared that working in different ways and finding the freedom to focus on supporting each student is a rewarding experience, rather than feeling pressured to cover a vast amount of content that students may not absorb.


This is just the start. The research highlights the great work happening at hundreds of sites nationwide, but there are many more. Learning Creates want to hear from them about what they are learning and the challenges they are facing along the way. In this pivotal era in education, the time is right to have a meaningful conversation about the purpose of learning.

Bronwyn Lee, formerly Deputy CEO of the Foundatiom for Young Australians, is CEO of Learning Creates Australia, an independent non-profit, catalysing equitable transformation in education.

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