Creating lifelong learners

The challenge for teachers today is to embrace increasing diversity in the classroom, personalise educational experiences, and realise that ‘ordinary students have extraordinary talents’.

That was the message delivered by Andreas Schleicher in a special video address to delegates at ACER's Research Conference for 2014.

The Director of the OECD's Directorate for Education and Skills told the Adelaide conference the teaching profession needs to be 'inspired by innovation and research'.

'What should we expect from 21st Century education? In the past we could assume that what students learn in school will last for their lifetime, so teaching specific content was at the centre of education,' Schleicher said.

'Today - where we can access content on Google, where routine cognitive skills are being digitised or outsourced, and where jobs are changing so rapidly - accumulating knowledge matters a lot less and success has a lot more to do with ways of thinking; creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, [and] judgement.'

If the past was curriculum-centered, he added, the future is learner-centered. 'In the past, learning was considered a 'place' - we brought kids to school. Now, learning is an activity that cuts through everything we do at any stage of our lives.

Andreas Schleicher.

Andreas Schleicher - Director of the OECD's Directorate for Education and Skills. Image supplied by the OECD.

'In the past, different students were taught in similar ways. Today, the challenge is to embrace increasing diversity with different [shades of] pedagogical practice, and that's really at the heart of the equity agenda ... it's about personalising educational experiences, it's about realising that ordinary students have extraordinary talents.'

Schleicher highlighted features of high performing school systems around the world, gleaned from PISA data, and told delegates that teacher quality is key.

'Nowhere does the quality of the school system exceed the quality of its teachers, and nowhere does the quality of teachers exceed the quality of support ... in school systems.

'What you see in the most advanced school systems now is that they have made teaching a profession of high level knowledge workers. People who see themselves as candidates for the profession are not attracted by the schools organised like an assembly line, with teachers working as interchangeable widgets.'

He said school systems must enable people to become lifelong learners who can manage complex ways of thinking and working. 'That requires a very different calibre of teachers.'

To view Andreas Schleicher's full video message visit