Schools needing to engage | OPINION

Tasmanian high schools need to engage students more | OPINION

OPINION
Opinion
MISSING: There is concern that Tasmanian high school students may not be finding their high school experience to be an engaging one, which could affect career choices. Photo: Shutterstock

MISSING: There is concern that Tasmanian high school students may not be finding their high school experience to be an engaging one, which could affect career choices. Photo: Shutterstock

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Authentic learning experiences, including agriculture, are a curriculum must.

Aa

I'M still following up on the meeting with our new politician, Felix Ellis, after the first one which I reported on last month.

It's school holidays as I write, so it's been difficult to link up with Ulverstone Secondary College, so watch this space.

So, where to from here? Bear in mind, as I reported last month, very few Year 11 students at Ulverstone Secondary College are thinking of going on to an agricultural related career, so I decided to have a closer look.

I was surprised to read in a recent article in the local newspaper, "The Advocate" on July 12 that, according to the Labor education spokesman, Josh Willie:

"It is enormously sad that Tasmanian teenagers are not finding their high school experience to be an engaging one, to such an extent that they are simply not showing up."

Looking at the attendance data reported on in the July 12 edition of the "The Advocate", Ulverstone Secondary College was almost at the bottom, with 71 per cent, below Smithton (73pc), Burnie (72pc) and Wynyard (72pc).

The highest was the North-West Support School, coming in at 86pc, closely followed by Sheffield High School (85pc) and Latrobe (84pc).

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This massive sentence in the Support School web home page explains why they topped the ranking:

"Children at our Support School are offered individualised learning programs which combine multi - disciplinary approaches with the aim of students achieving their personal best through authentic and relevant learning experiences aimed at developing and enhancing academic skills, social competencies, and daily living and recreational skills."

Dissecting this, "authentic and relevant learning experiences" are the key, and brings me back to where my concern started - for those students not living on a farm, authentic and relevant agricultural experiences have to be supplied by the school, and the quality of these obviously varies.

Another key word is "individualised". In 1973, almost 50 years ago, I was leading a charge to develop an education delivery system which focussed on the individual.

In the classroom, the focus was on the group. Twenty or 30 students were all expected to get to the same level before the teacher moved on to the next stage.

The curriculum was laid down by the Education Department and quality control assured by making all students take the same exams.

To make it possible to focus on the individual, I developed the concepts of the Learning Contract, which spelt out what the individual wanted to learn more about, and the Learning Consultant, who was someone who had knowledge in the area of those wants.

This could be anybody, not just a teacher, which made it quite easy to find them.

I could go on, but it's all written up in the reports of what was entitled the Open Learning Project, and are in the library at what is now Curtin University in Perth, WA - it was then the Western Australian Institute of Technology.

Back to the Ulverstone initiative. The Support School principal says: "Community partnerships are important and we make a deliberate choice to foster strong partnerships with key stake holders."

So will we - there's a lot of expertise in the local agribusinesses.

Roll on the end of the school holidays, so that we can get moving.

Aa

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