Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist, is starting to get it

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I have written before about reports and articles published by the office of Australia’s chief scientist (most recently here). They tend to be of the motivate-kids-with-cool-stuff variety alongside a mouthing of tropes about 21st century skills.

No more.

Alan Finkel, the incumbent, seems to have seen the light. I don’t know who he’s been talking to but they have done a great job. The evidence is in a recently published speech he gave to science teachers.

It starts rather oddly, with a suggestion that when he has previously repeated 21st century learning platitudes, he has been misunderstood.

However, it then becomes a full-throated endorsement of the need to teach knowledge through subject disciplines. You should read the whole thing but here are a few quotes:

“…I want to talk about why, in 2018, there is still a fundamental duty to teach students content: concepts, facts and principles. Taught by teachers trained as experts in that content, with all the status and resources and professional development that we would demand in any other expert occupation.”

“In all my meetings with people actually hiring graduates, no-one has ever said to me: “gosh, we don’t have enough people who know how to collaborate”.

No, what they say to me is: we don’t have enough specialists in software engineering. We can’t find graduates who are fluent in maths. We have meetings where three quarters of the people in the room can’t critique a set of numbers without pulling out a calculator and slowing us down.”

Three cheers for that.

This leaves advocates of 21st century learning, or progressivism in disguise, with a choice to make. They can either disown Finkel’s comments or they can suggest that his views are precisely what they have been claiming all along, only with different words, in a different order and with a different meaning.


4 thoughts on “Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist, is starting to get it

  1. Pingback: It is not a question of priorities – Filling the pail

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