Competence in basics is central to a well-rounded education

Mar 15, 2018 by

Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia (forthcoming Wilkinson Publishing)


One of the more vacuous education cliches doing the rounds is “21st-century learning” — that teaching traditional subjects such as history, maths, science and English is obsolete and irrelevant.

Instead teachers and schools are told, to meet an unpredictable future, they must prioritise generic competencies such as learning how to learn, being collaborative, critical thinking and inquiry-based learning, where the focus is on process instead of content.

The OECD’s plan to test “global competence” in this year’s Program for International Student Assessment test represents the most recent push to reshape radically what students learn.

In the jargon much loved by contemporary educrats, global competence is described as “a multifaceted cognitive, socio-emotional and civic learning goal” promoting in students a “desire to understand the other” and to “include marginalised groups”.

According to postcolonial theory, the “other” refers to the way European imperialists, supposedly, denied the humanity of indigenous people they colonised by describing them as dangerous, uncivilised, primitive and irrational.

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