Mitchell Institute outlines policy recommendations to develop capable children

by Freya Lucas

October 22, 2018

In their latest report The capable country, released yesterday, researchers at the Mitchell Institute have called for rapid government action to boost capabilities across all stages of learning, from birth to 24 years.

 

The report follows calls from major education, industry and government leaders to emphasise capabilities in Australian education, and provides policy suggestions for governments to turn these calls into action, echoing recent commentary from economics editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins.

 

Institute Director Megan O’Connell said that governments must deliver systems that support all early learning centres, schools, vocational institutions and universities to strengthen the capabilities in every Australian learner.

 

Authors of the report, Bill Lucas and Dr Charlene Smith, define capabilities as those things which allow people to apply knowledge and skills, saying that a strong set of capabilities are vital for:

 

  • helping young children prepare to learn;
  • improving outcomes in school;
  • increasing lifelong wellbeing; and,
  • supporting job success.

 

Capabilities include critical thinking, resilience, creativity, problem solving and communication, amongst others.

 

“There is a lot of great work happening right across the education spectrum to strengthen capabilities in learning but for all children to benefit, we need governments to drive change,” Ms O’Connell said, before urging policy makers to take action.

“Ten years ago Australia made a commitment to grow capable learners, ‘confident and creative individuals’, in the Melbourne Declaration and this year the major Gonksi 2.0 report again recommended to strengthen capabilities. We can’t spend another decade talking about wanting to improve in this area – we need capabilities prioritised in Australian education now.”

Three governmental priorities are identified within the report, to ensure children and young people can grow capabilities:

 

  • Long-term commitment
  • Support for the education workforce
  • New approaches to measuring student growth and development.

 

The report also suggests eight steps to strengthen capabilities in Australians and highlights successful practices already underway in Australia and overseas.

 

While the report emphasises that government delivery is necessary to ensure equity across the system, it also notes that parents, educators and employers play crucial roles in enhancing capability-focused learning.

 

Alongside the report, the Mitchell Institute has developed a series of fact sheets, designed to support those working with children and young people to identify what capabilities should look like in learners at different ages, and offering advice for anyone wanting to enhance their development.

 

“The term ‘capabilities’ is not clear to everyone. We need to support parents, educators and employers to better understand how to help grow these in children and young people,” Ms O’Connell explained.

 

“Capabilities are the things that help young children share and play with others, enable school students to communicate ideas and allow young adults to recognise their strengths and overcome challenges. We cannot have a strong education system without them.”

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