Schools are the bedrock of every person’s education. School attendance, preferably to year 12, and post-school education deliver the best economic and health outcomes for individuals. Schools need to help the best and brightest students achieve their potential, and also ensure that no student is left behind.
Schools teach foundation skills, such as literacy and numeracy. The Australian Chamber believes that there should be minimum requirements for school leavers. Over 90 per cent of students achieve the minimum standard in NAPLAN testing but less than 60 per cent of Australian students meet the international benchmarks for literacy and numeracy that underpin the skills needed to function in the workplace. This disconnect between outcomes and skills needs to be addressed.
An increasing number of young people undertake vocational training at schools. To meet their expectations we need to focus on improving quality and maximising the credit given for vocational training at schools in the rest of the training system. This includes expanding school-based apprenticeships, improving the skills of trainers and the quality of training, and industry engagement between schools and employers.
The Australian Chamber supports the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) development of an elective subject at years 9 and 10 to embed employability skills within work-related contexts. This should make learning fun and relevant by contextualising learning within the world of work.
Not everyone learns in the same way. A program that encourages students to continue at school and engage in their learning will set them up for a better future.
Australian Chamber policies for schools include:
- Introduce minimum standards for literacy and numeracy for all school leavers that relate to the standards required in the workplace using international standards such as PISA as the benchmark.
- Work with state and federal governments on strengthening vocational training and vocational learning at school.
- Implement a needs-based schools funding approach, but given that large increases in overall school funding in recent years have not delivered improved outcomes in key areas of concern including literacy and numeracy, support a review of delivery in order to achieve educational excellence and evidence-based policy.
- Support national curriculum, but encourage excellence and innovation at the local level in how it is delivered.
- Support increased participation in Asian languages and culture but apply new thinking as to how to more successfully attract students to study languages and teachers with the capability to deliver, as well as how to better utilise Asian literacy in the current and future workforce.
- Improve the careers advice at schools through stronger industry engagement, and an emphasis not just on courses to study but a deeper understanding of the jobs at the end of the course.
- Improve student understanding of the importance of a strong economy, and the roles of small business and entrepreneurship and innovation, and encourage students to see running a small business as a positive career aspiration.