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A More Innovative Australia Starts in Our Classrooms

Australia continues to fall behind the world in innovation and many are looking at the education sector for long-term answers. How can our schools and universities help close the gap?

Australians are generally slow to change. We love a good tradition and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s why Tim Tam’s are still our favourite biscuit and Neighbours recently entered its 34th season. But our love affair with tradition isn’t always the right answer and, for the education sector, there’s a growing need to drive change.

As a nation, we’re slowly gaining a rather notorious reputation as an innovation laggard. With this stagnation comes anxiety and pressure is being heaped onto the shoulders of the education industry to fix it.

In our latest Canon Business Readiness Index (CBRI) survey, 70 per cent of educational professionals say they understand the importance of innovation. But Australian business and government are falling behind their peers. So, how can the education sector help close the gap?

Many of our survey respondents told us that customer-centricity is the driving force behind their innovation efforts, with 58 per cent saying they’re primarily focused on improving the customer experience or responding to changing customer needs.

Other factors include gaining a competitive advantage, improving productivity and increasing efficiency. Technology is seen as the most important factor in delivering innovation.

Investing in education

One of the biggest opportunities lies in developing new skills in areas needed by business. Skills that will help Australian businesses be more competitive in the digital age. It’s about problem solving and breaking down barriers. It’s about tackling projects up into small chunks and thinking like a customer.

All of these new ways of working fall under the 4 Cs of modern education – communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. More than any other industries in the CBRI survey, education professionals see responding to customer and organisational needs as the primary driver of innovation.

Yet much as innovation has become an overused term in business, the rhetoric of innovation and digital transformation has been prevalent in academic reviews and strategic plans from kindergarten to university.

And financial resources are a problem, with 60 per cent of education professionals citing this as the biggest barrier. Reluctance to change (34 per cent) and legislation (33 per cent) were the next most common barriers.

Innovation is held in high regard within Australia’s education sector but greater investment is needed to support the changes we need to support our future Australian economy.

The challenge is great but our education sector is up to it and the rewards of a digital economy are greater. It isn’t going to be a quick or easy process but the journey starts with education.

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