Education Beyond the School Gates

John Watters, Executive Officer – AusSIP

Fundamentally there is an ideological difference between education and schooling. Whilst schools are identified as being the source of education, questions arise such as can you attend school without being educated or can you be educated without going to school? Furthermore, do you have to physically attend school?

Winston Churchill has been quoted to have said that ‘he never let school get in the way of his education.’ In the digital age where teachers are competing against the speed of 4G, the concept of schooling and education, as well as where learning occurs is under more scrutiny than ever before.

The concept of online learning is not essentially a new idea, having many remnants in previous generations of remote learning or distance learning. If one casts their minds back not so long ago, School of the Air was a valuable source of learning and interaction for students utilising radios. More recent advancements in technology has seen a plethora of online learning solutions grow in scope, breadth and depth of learning and this will undoubtedly continue to expand. Interestingly though, the location of where most students access such learning is often more traditional in nature, being quieter places such as home offices or study areas rather than on public transport etc.

Another type of learning that has grown rapidly thanks to YouTube is the concept of ‘Just in Time Learning’. In such instances, smaller amounts of bite-size learning is facilitated through short videos demonstrating how to complete tasks. This could range from fixing a hole in the wall to changing spark plugs to adjusting settings on computer programs. In each instance, the viewer is seeking to gain enough knowledge just in time to fix an immediate challenge. There is no need to complete an online course covering customer service or attend classes addressing areas that may be part of a qualification or are essentially irrelevant to the problem at hand. Are such solutions foolproof or in some cases legal? Probably not. Has their knowledge improved and are they more educated? Most definitely.

Many employers raise concerns about the work readiness of students or misunderstandings of the world of work. Whilst it can be argued that other forms can substitute on-the job training, the only real way anyone learns about businesses and industries is actually undertaking work experience, work shadowing, mentoring or industry visits. Even as adults, there is a workplace culture present in every business that needs to be experienced to be understood. ‘The way we do things around here’ is always best understood when actually in the environment, rather than an induction presentation.
There has been a long history of work experience and work placement throughout NSW. More recently, there has been a growing body of evidence and number of examples of schools and businesses working together for mutual benefits. Internationally and nationally, this partnership model has demonstrated successful outcomes for schools, businesses and tax payers. Schooling has become part of the wider education landscape and external experiences have become a value-adding process.

On January 1 2015, many of these support mechanisms for all sectors will cease to exist. In recent budget cuts, programs such as Youth Connections and Partnership Brokers have been completely wiped from existence. The Job Guide and accompanying websites will also cease to exist. Work placement funding that supports VET students around NSW remains uncertain. The support mechanisms that assist schools, businesses and families assist young people make their transition from school to work are vanishing. Education beyond the school gate is becoming a distant memory.

In a time of transition for both the economy and education as a whole, support mechanisms are essential. Existing models, funding levels and expected outcomes may have to be revised, but strategies transcend whims. For me, education is a cumulative life-long journey. Whilst schooling is a part of that process, it is not the final outcome or the only piece in the jigsaw. Outside experiences enhance schooling and provides deeper education.

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