School and system improvement

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School systems, Frameworks, Curriculum, Skill development, Generic skills, Deep learning, Academic achievement, Primary secondary education


This research paper was commissioned by Independent Schools Australia (ISA).


The central thesis of this paper has been that the challenges now confronting schools globally will require fundamental reforms of the external frameworks within which schools work. Today’s challenges to better prepare young people for the future and to ensure that every student learns successfully will not be met by simply expecting teachers to change what they do or by making minor adjustments to current curricula, assessment, examination, reporting and credentialling arrangements. Today’s challenges require deep reforms and a willingness to reimagine—in other words, to ‘transform’ existing learning systems. This is essential because the external frameworks within which teachers and students work are such strong determinants of day-to-day practice. Three principles with the potential to guide transformation efforts were outlined. Each principle challenges features of existing learning systems, including a widespread emphasis on passive, reproductive learning at the expense of more holistic student development; an emphasis on timed, lock-step learning at the expense of flexibility in the timing and rate of learning; and an emphasis on grading students on how well they have learnt bodies of taught content at the expense of understanding individual learning needs and monitoring students’ long-term growth. The paper has argued that deep reforms guided by these principles are urgently required if progress is to be made in addressing the two global challenges.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Place of Publication

Camberwell, Australia


ACER Press



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