Are you a frigate or a supply ship?

A wonderful fried of mine in the navy once told me this story about the difference between driving a frigate and driving a supply ship. It related to how on straight lines they were as good as each other, but when it came to taking a corner the frigate can turn 180 degrees in seconds on itself. The supply ship takes hours and needs a turning circle kilometers wide. I think I’m exaggerating but you get the point. Both ships are really useful for their purpose. A frigate needs supplies and a ship to bring them out. And when all is said and done, a supply ship shouldn’t need to turn fast because the frigate is there to protect it. They are both fit for purpose.

What does this have to do with education? Today COAG released some reports. One on school education and one on tertiary. I’m yet to read them in detail but I will because it’s important. It’s important because the failings occurring in school education has a direct flow on to higher education. We are developing support modules for students in skill sets that used to be taken for granted. Education is not a frigate. It cannot change direction on itself in seconds. It’s a supply ship. It supplies the workforce of the future. But it also supplies the philosophers, the inventors, the agitators, the people who can think and then change the world.

Students are frigates. They change direction regularly, with apparent randomness and great speed. As I said, I’ve not read these reports in full, but I think the expectation of the supply ship to keep up with the frigate is too great. Education policy and management should have started changing direction a long time ago if it was to meet the demands of today. The issue is, what is that direction? And for that I have no answer other than, not the one we’re going.

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3 comments
  1. Are they really frigates? I think that individually they can be, but collectively and on a grander scale they are more like supply ships. Turning around outcomes for whole cohorts takes time, patience and more strategies than are likely to be implemented/supported under the current regime.

    • mellgrim said:

      Good question – maybe individually they are frigates but together they change properties again. So if we’re teaching the whole cohort it requires one approach and if we are looking at each student individually it becomes another. Which, as you state, requires more than we currently have.

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