The debate between employers and the education system

I’ve been in Australia for 9 months today, and one of the things that I’ve noticed is that the Australia media only focuses on a few issues in relation to schools – and a lot of it is about political, rather than learning-centric, issues. So I was heartened to open the Sydney Morning Herald today to see a story about education that isn’t focusing on the narrow debate about funding (don’t get me wrong, school funding is important, but it seems to have dominated the reporting on education for the last six months, at the expense of media coverage about learning-related topics). The story, on page five, was headlined ‘Employers want HSC geared to workforce’, and reported on a review to be published by the NSW Business Chamber. (Although this story had a a specific New South Wales focus, the same pattern will exist in every state, and I know it exists in many countries – it seems that every year the Institute of Directors in England produces a similar report).

Icons_teacherStudent_blueAs it’s a report in the News section, it focuses on a complaint-response structure – in this case, employers calling for more core subjects for the HSC, better quality vocational courses and minimum standards for literacy and numeracy, with the NSW Board of Studies responding that literacy and numeracy is high up their agenda. It also went on to say that the chamber believes that 9 out of 10 vocational courses won’t lead to a qualification ‘adequate for a 21st century labour market’.

Whatever else this may imply, there’s a couple of significant points in here for the suppliers of ICT services for schools in NSW:

  • The literacy and numeracy skills of students are high up the agenda for key stakeholders
  • We should expect continuing change in the configuration, breadth and diversity of courses
    This will be a major challenge, when considered alongside the data that half of NSW teachers are due to retire by 2016 – with a similar statistic in other states.

Question: Does what you do contribute to alleviate the problem? If the answer isn’t immediately obvious, is it important enough to refocus?