Transcript of interview with Professor Lyall Buttcaster, 21/3/2016.
Hello. I’m Fiona Fishscales and tonight on Eyeball on Education we talk to Professor Lyall Buttcaster about Australia’s falling standings on the PISA rankings.
FF: Welcome Professor Buttcaster.
PB: Thanks Fiona, great to be here.
FF: Recently Mr Sanadreas Fault from the OECD gave a scathing criticism of Australia’s slide down the PISA rankings; do you think that attack was warranted?
PB: Well first let me say, I don’t think it was an attack….
FF: Well he did say “We treat teachers as strange interchangeable widgets on the frontline – they are just there to implement useless prefabricated knowledge.” That’s pretty harsh?
PB: Well quite Fiona, but he does have a point really. We have young men and women leaving our schools without a set of essential capabilities for the 21st century.
FF: What sort of capabilities are we talking about?
PB: Its widely acknowledged that students today need a whole set of skills to take them forward. They need creativity, problem solving and entrepreneurial skills. They need to be collaborative, innovative individuals who construct their own learning and they also must have grit and resilience!
FF: Are they skills peculiar to the 21st century? They seem pretty generic?
PB: Not at all Fiona. If we are going to empower students for jobs that haven’t been invented yet, indeed a future we can’t possibly envisage then…..
FF: Sorry, did you say jobs that haven’t been invented yet?
PB: Absolutely! We need students with the skills to……
FF: Sorry Professor, how did you know what the skills required will be, if we can’t envisage what the jobs will be?
PB: Look, we are sliding down the PISA rankings rapidly and it’s not good enough. We need creative……
FF: Mr Fault said that 20% of our students are ending school with out strong basic literacy and numeracy skills. Shouldn’t we focus on why that’s happening?
PB : Well the countries that regularly top the PISA rankings like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore… We need to look at what they are doing, and why we are going backwards. We need students who have those specific 21st century sk……….
FF: Is that what those top ranking countries focus on?
PB: Well no, but I believe Shanghai and Singapore are thinking about it. They realise the importance of creativity in the 21st cen………
FF: What about Finland? Aren’t they always front-runners? What are they doing then?
PB: Well they have fallen down the rankings a bit I’m afraid.
FF: Lack of creativity?
PB: Not entirely. They seem to have a society that values teachers. They..
FF: So they have stopped valuing them?
PB: Not that I’m aware of …..um. Look that’s a very different culture over there and we need to be aware of that so….
FF: Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, presumably very different as well.
PB: Sure. But we know what we have to do. The USA is on the cusp of introducing a new test of resilience or ‘grit’ at the end of upper secondary schooling. We are also looking at resilience and character in England.
FF: How do you measure that?
PB: Well it’s complex no doubt, but we usually find a way of measuring things quite well.
FF: All evidence to the contrary…
PB: I’m sorry?
PB: Look we are still working with an Industrial model of …
FF: And stifling creativity?
PB: Yes quite. How did you know I was going to say that?
FF: Wild stab in the dark. So Shanghai for example, has a very progressive model of education?
PB: No, but a very different culture of course. Again, we need to prepare our students for jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Around 70% of jobs will be obsolete in 10 to 15 years time and…
FF: That’s been said for over a decade now.
PB: Well yes, but this time……
FF: Does it matter how we are ranked internationally?
PB: Yes! We need to be globally competitive in an exciting new world. We can’t be seen to be dropping back with the likes of Poland. We…
FF: That’s a bit offensive surely. What’ the Polish system like?
PB: I have no idea but…
FF: I imagine they are not being creative enough…
PB: That’s very flippant. Look in 2016 the PISA test will include collaborative problem-solving, and as this name change suggests, will have a unique social dimension not before seen in testing. It’s very exciting. We need to get on board with this now.
FF: Otherwise we will slip further on the rankings?
PB: Yes. There is a sense of urgency about this…
FF: Politicians certainly love to talk up our failings in education based on International rankings.
PB: Your point?
FF: Can we worry just about how Australian kids are doing, rather than comparing them to vastly different cultures?
PB: No, we need these comparisons to let us know how we are going in a globally competitive market. We need to produce competitive, entrepreneurial, creative, innovative, problem solvers for jobs that haven’t been invented yet.
FF: I still can’t get my head around that.
PB: You don’t need to; your job will be obsolete in ten to fif….
FF: Thank you Professor Lyall Buttcaster.
PB: Nice to be with you.