National education policymaking and the transformation of Australian school education

The disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic has created the opportunity to ‘reset’ school education in Australia. To fully benefit from this opportunity, national education policymaking must also be reviewed and reset.

In the last two years, the demands of remote learning on schools, teachers and students have created curiosity and expectation around the possibilities for re-shaping education delivery. While many have commented on the need for schools to repair, renew and reset in the light of COVID-19, there has been little public discussion on what impact disruptions to schooling during COVID-19 lockdowns might have on approaches to national policymaking in education.  

The time is ripe to review and reset approaches to national education policymaking to ensure Australian schools have ready support as they rebuild and reshape learning pathways to help all students achieve their best possible futures.

New opportunities demand new policy approaches

Australia’s school system, while largely regulated and owned by state and territory governments, benefits from the strengths of its national education architecture as represented by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), Education Services Australia (ESA) and the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO). Not the least of these strengths is the high regard which these institutions have earned from educators.

Since the 2019 federal election, we have also witnessed and welcomed a commitment to extensive consultation with the schools sector by Australian Government departments and agencies. Such consultation is vital if policy implementation is to be managed well. Further innovation is required, however, at the point where policies are first formed.

By adopting a strengths-based approach to policymaking, the Australian Government can take leadership of national initiatives to ensure Australia’s schools have the capacity to capitalise on opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic and have the support they need to accelerate their transformation in response to rapid technological and social change. Building on the strengths of schools and systems will also ensure that all students have access to the learning pathways and tools they need to achieve their best.

Follow the links below for examples of how strengths-based policies can rapidly strengthen Australia’s school system.

A strengths-based approach to policymaking in school education:

Recognises the professional expertise of teachers and school leaders 

•  Recognises that schools are operating strategically within a continuous cycle of development or improvement

Recognises the value of and supports diversity in educational provision and pathways for students 

Recognises that the continued successful evolution of Australia’s schooling system depends on schools having the autonomy to experiment, research and trial or adapt ideas and practices.

(Image courtesy of Strathcona Girls Grammar)