In Australia, 33% percent of Year 12 students strongly agree they will find a good job when they leave school. These findings are from the inaugural Australian Gallup Student Poll, a convenience sample of more than 7,000 students in Years 5-12, in 36 schools, and over six states. Results suggest that educators still have a lot of work to do to equip students with the skills they need for productive and fulfilling careers.
The Australian economy, hailed for emerging mostly unaffected from the recent global financial crisis, is at a major crossroads. As the country faces a struggling job market and the end of a mining boom, Australians are seeking to diversify the economy from traditional "blue collar" industries to a more knowledge-based economy.
To help make this transition, The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) rightly wants to equip Australian students to be "21st century learners and thinkers"; pushing them beyond academics and ensuring they can adapt to and be confident in a complex, information-rich, globalised world.
To achieve this aim, educators must concentrate on developing students' critical problem solving skills and on teaching students how to use their individual strengths to succeed. However, students do not feel that their schools are setting them up for success. Less than one in four Year 12 students strongly agree they can find lots of ways around any problem. Furthermore, only 30% of Year 12 students strongly agree their school is committed to building the strengths of each student, compared with 59% of Year 5 students.
These results indicate that there is a gap between educators' well-intended efforts and what students are thinking and feeling. To bridge this gap, educators should monitor and more strongly consider the behavioural aspects of education, focusing more heavily on the uniqueness of individual students, and not only on hard metrics such as grades and NAPLAN.
Education leaders across Australia should:
- Have a holistic approach to student success and encourage teachers to spend as much time focusing on and building the strengths of each student as they do on academic outcomes.
- Listen to how students are thinking and feeling on a regular basis by conducting a national student poll, providing a nationally representative sample of Australian students' hope, engagement, and well-being.
- Help students see the links between what they naturally do well, what they learn in school, and their future career potential.