Gonski Review 2.0 sounds potentially great for gifted kids. It suggests just the type of changes we could see providing the learning opportunities we know would suit gifted students. In essence, it says:
- Australia needs to change its model of school education to one that reflects the aspirations and needs of the 21st century.
- each child should be able to achieve one year’s growth in learning
- each child should be equipped to be a creative, connected and engaged learner in this rapidly changing world
- learning goals should be individualised not determined by the year level of schooling.
- education system should be developing as an adaptive, innovative and continuously improving system.
But the key words in the document that could suggest a new outlook that’s potentially responsive to the learning needs of gifted children – 21st century education – engaged – adaptive – innovative (ensuring at least ) a year’s learning growth for each child, individual learning goals etc. are vague when we try to think through exactly how this might be put into effect.
I think as parents and teachers of children who are gifted what we need to do is to identify those parts of Gonski 2.0 that offer the possibility to provide satisfactorily for gifted students. Then we need to take these to our MPs and onto social media and ask that in the process of refining the detail of the Gonski review these aspects and needs are also included.
The following are some parts of the Gonski review that I feel are important if we are to be truly inclusive of our gifted students. Some but not all gifted students are engaged with learning in the school system. There are those, who failing to find school-learning satisfying gradually disengage or only interact with the curriculum at a level that is well below their ability level. So are teachers and the school program going to be supported to take on the extra challenge of re-engaging those students?
Achieving one year’s growth of learning each year sounds the most basic of expectations for a student. But, what about the gifted student who is capable of achieving several years’ growth within one calendar year? What is to be a measure of one year’s growth? Are teachers going to be supported to enable such accelerated learning rates?
Asking for individualised learning programs for all children is hopelessly idealistic – it is simply not practical. But, teachers if they have sufficient professional education about giftedness and adequate planning time can frame their teaching programs to be inclusive of gifted students so that they provide ‘learning challenge for all’.
Recommending that schools be extremely flexible — adaptive, innovative and continuously improving, sounds highly desirable in today’s rapidly changing world – in the 21st century. And this is exactly what gifted student’s need – the opportunity to expand their learning in directions that they find satisfying, research ideas, be creative and original in their thinking. Also, this is what our society needs for the future. But curriculum approaches that allow this are difficult to implement — when national measurements of achievement are demanded, when individual school results are posted online like an advertorial for a school (or not) and there are standardised learning outcomes. Such approaches could be implemented with ‘vertical curriculums’ and a dismantling of the age-year level of lock-step progress through the curriculum. But there is no mention of such radical changes within the Gonski Review.
How such opportunities can be made available to gifted students are illustrated to some extent in some of the IB programs and in ‘Democratic Schools’ and in experimental schools – for instance the Elon Musk school in California ( google – Ad Astra school). But such schools require radical re-structuring of traditional approaches and are probably beyond the scope of changes suggested by the Gonski review.
Underpinning the hopes that Gonski 2.0 raises – is the need to adequately resource schools and especially teachers so that they are able to plan, implement and evaluate learning programs that deliver the type of learning that Gonski advocates. If we can persuade our politicians that adequate resources involve – adequate funding – adequate time and – trust in our schools and teachers to achieve such goals, then we can start to hope that the aspirations of Gonski 2.0 will also benefit our gifted students.
Dr Anne Grant
Find the Gonski Review report and other comments on it, online – the following are worth reading though do not discuss gifted students specifically.