‘Is school out for the 21st century?’: Southern Cross to moderate discussion at Thursday Night Live!

Published 10 April 2018
School playground

The ‘factory model’ of school, with its standardised curricula and cookie-cutter assessments, has passed its use-by date says a Southern Cross University educator who’s moderating this month’s Thursday Night Live! discussion, ‘Is school out for the 21st century?’, at 6pm on April 12 at Lismore Regional Gallery.

“At the beginning of the 21st century we are still looking at a schooling system based on an 18th century model of factories. Schools look like and are administered like factories, and their product – students – tends to be treated like a factory output,” said Associate Lecturer Alan Foster from the School of Education.

He will be joined by a group of panellists also keen to challenge the current formal education system as not being the best way to equip young people for a dynamic and changing world.

Mr Foster said our school education system, harking back to the Victorian age in Britain, drew its inspiration from ecclesiastical and army models of learning and control.

“It’s time to blow the paradigm apart and have a look at what we can do now in the 21st century with the tools that are available to us. The ability to have learning distributed over a variety of learning locations in real time is perhaps something that needs to be looked at pretty closely.

“The panellists have ideas based on their own experiences around how this can be achieved. They are definitely worth listening to. It’s a challenging provocation and I’m looking forward to the discussion.” 

Meet the panellists:

John Stewart

John is currently planning to develop new educational offerings on the Northern Rivers, emphasising the importance of living, including Living Kinder, Living School, and Living Learning. John’s focus is innovative, holistic and child-centred, and he has taught in public and independent schools across all sectors, and across all types of schooling structures. With more than 25 years of experience, John’s professional expertise is far-ranging and includes teaching jobs in established schools including St John’s College School, Cambridge (voted by Tattler magazine as the UK’s best prep school); Barker College, Hornsby; Tudor House, Moss Vale; and Hill House International School, London through to being Head of Green School, Bali. John has a Master of Education from the University of Cambridge, and has written extensively on education, including co-authoring with the widely acclaimed child psychologist, Dr John Irvine, Thriving at School: a handbook for parents. He is an authority on learning, teaching, curriculum development, assessment, boys’ education, technology in education and developing writing skills.


Pav (Pawel) Slotwinski

Pav’s education journey has been diverse and colourful. He grew up jumping between schools across South Africa, where he was born and Poland where his ancestors hail from. Upon finishing high school Pav travelled and eventually attended The University of Sydney to complete a Bachelor of Education. With paper in hand and ideals in his head he moved around primary schools in Sydney teaching casually and eventually ventured to London to teach there for some time. Upon returning Pav had begun to feel jaded with mainstream education so he decided to forge his own way. This eventually led him to co-creating a community learning space in Mullumbimby on the NSW North Coast called Wildspace. Around the same time he joined the Lismore community development group Social Futures as a facilitator working with the Youth Connections Clubhouse and the Links to Learning program that aims to support students at risk to re-engage with, or remain engaged with learning. Currently Pav is involved in multi-age, self-directed learning projects with a wide range of groups such as, high school teens, home schoolers, activist groups, and various community organisations and festivals. Pav now considers himself less of a teacher and more of a co-learner and facilitator.


Tilly Jones

Tilly was born in 2001 in Lismore with a number of medical conditions. Doctors said she would never walk or talk but as she says: “Here we are”. Her parents fostered a love for music at a young age and started piano lessons when she was five. She can talk from personal experience on three forms of schooling: Mainstream (Kindergarten – Year 7); Home-schooling (Year 8) and currently Distance Education (Years 9 and 10). After leaving mainstream school Tilly had more time to focus on music which has greatly benefited her personal and educational life. She composes her own work, has written various pieces for solo and ensemble, some of which have been featured by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.


Facilitator: Alan Foster, Associate Lecturer (Teaching Scholar), Southern Cross University.

Alan has been in classrooms from 1955 to the present; quite an achievement, as a student, teacher, principal and lecturer in education. He grew up in the Kyogle area and spent the first half of his career in the New England area and North West NSW before the inevitable return to Lismore. Alan’s first school was a single teacher school of 35 students, Kindergarten to Year 10, shortly before turning 19 and as the only adult on the school site in an isolated area. It was here that he began to realise the significance of schools in communities. A passion for ‘broadening horizons’ began here. This included connecting learning with purpose of learning, going beyond the confines of classroom and community, and the value of technology. The technology began with filmstrips, record players and wireless through numerous iterations of audio and video tools. He now dabbles in robotics, coding, filmmaking, and interactive media for learning, with students as active participants and producers. He has always valued the place of community in schools in both town and rural settings because building community is a key to purposeful and effective schools.


Event details

‘Is school out for the 21st century?’

Thursday, April 12 from 6-7pm in the Event Space at Lismore Regional Gallery, 11 Rural Street, Lismore NSW 2480


Thursday Night Live!

Presented by Lismore Regional Gallery and Southern Cross University, Thursday Night Live! is a new ongoing talks program that puts thought-provoking and big ideas in the spotlight. It’s held at the Gallery’s event space on the second Thursday of each month.

Media contact: Sharlene King, media officer 0429 661 349