School leavers may need ‘learning passport’ to prove their academic knowledge

School leavers may need to show their readiness for the workforce, under a review of pathways to the workforce.
School leavers may need to show their readiness for the workforce, under a review of pathways to the workforce.

Secondary school leavers could be required to gain a “learning passport” that would detail both their academic knowledge and so-called soft skills, such as creativity, problem-solving and collaboration, attained throughout their education as part of a push to improve the transition from study to the workforce.

A national review of senior secondary pathways into work and higher education, launched on Friday, will also consider whether there is a need for “mandatory, reportable minimum standards” for literacy, numeracy and digital mastery amid widespread concerns that young people are leaving school with poor foundational skills.

The options were flagged in a discussion paper released as part of the review, which will be conducted by Western Sydney University chancellor Peter Shergold, and will aim to provide federal, state and territory education ministers with recommendations on how senior secondary students can better navigate the transition into work, further education or training.

The review will also weigh in on the modern conundrum of what essential knowledge, skills and capabilities students should expect gain in order to succeed in life after school, which has become a topic of vigorous debate as workplaces are tipped to evolve rapidly as a result of technological advancement and the emergency of artificial intelligence.

While the discussion paper highlights growing recognition of the types of skills that future workplaces will require from employees, such as innovation, creativity, problem solving and collaboration, it also notes calls for renewed efforts on ensuring that the basics of school education, particularly literacy and numeracy, are transmitted to students before they leave.

“Although literacy and numeracy skills are widely recognised as essential for successes in learning and work performance, and most jurisdictions have minimum standards in place for obtaining a [secondary school certificate] there is continuing criticism from employers and tertiary education providers that senior secondary graduates are leaving school without adequate foundational skills,” the paper says.

“Students and employers have differing views on their preparedness to enter employment.

“While the majority of students feel they have good skills in areas such as team work, generating new ideas and problem solving, many employers are concerned by the low levels of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills of school leavers in particular.”

Professor Shergold said young people needed to be better informed to make choices when they were still at school but were not being helped by a system where learning options, as well as information and advice, were fragmented.

“Some young people are left struggling to follow routes that do not suit their skills or aspiration, find themselves trapped in dead ends or spend time and money on gaining qualification beyond what they need for their chosen career,” he said. “This is not a new problem.”

Professor Shergold said the review would draw upon knowledge of recent reviews that sought to address elements of the problem and that potential reforms would hopefully enable young people greater flexibility to move back and forth between education sectors.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said the reviewers wanted to hear about the challenges young people faced upon leaving school as well as the views of parents, teachers, universities and employers.

Mr Tehan said the review was critical because young people faced an important decision of which options out of work, university or other training would best suit their strengths and help them realise their ambitions.

“The outcomes of the review will help senior secondary schools students better understand the wide range of available options and the best pathways to support their transition to work, university or training,” he said.


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