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It’s the right time for less time in class

But the impact of remote learning on student learning will be small. While students are away over any holiday break, they fall behind in terms of skills and knowledge recall, but every year this is quickly overcome by our competent and hard-working teachers.

The fact that students continue to receive a world-class education from home during this time will mean that limited catch-up will be required.

So perhaps we ought to pause and consider how we might repair, rather than resume, our education system.

With NAPLAN cancelled, and ATAR likely to be significantly altered, we will soon discover our schooling system can function without such simplification of the complex human work our students and teachers do to mere data points.

Concurrently, remote learning is causing a dramatic improvement in the familiarity of most teachers to the range of digital pedagogies that exist. For most teachers, this is a titanic shift in what is possible. The metaphor of a teaching toolbox is being extended, with new “power tools” being added to teachers’ repertoire.

We look to the horizon, eyes ablaze to the possibility of a reformed Australian system where our young people’s disadvantage is seen and addressed, and schools are allowed adequate time and funding to support them. This may seem high-minded, but the starting point is very much earthbound.

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Australian schools are also above the OECD average for time spent face-to-face in classes, leaving little time for students to exercise the skills they are currently displaying.

What is needed is simply a long-term reduction in time in class.

Time spared for teachers will be used for moderation, modification and preparation for students’ complex needs, coaching, professional development and research into the science of learning.

Time spared for students will allow them to cook, craft, play, create, pursue passion projects and engage with their community.

Let’s not rush back to an old normal. Take time to breathe. Ponder what is possible.

Steven Kolber teaches at Brunswick Secondary College.

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