There has been a lot of discussion following the release of Gonski 2.0 and it provides much food for thought for anyone in the education space – parents and practitioners alike.

At first the recommendations in the report seem vital if we are to produce school graduates who have the necessary skills to function and positively contribute to a world of "significant economic, social and technological change" where the pace of change is staggeringly fast. But there is one area in which comes unstuck. It states that students must be “creative, connected and engaged” and that there needs to be more emphasis on general capabilities such as “critical and creative thinking.” The notion, however, that one can teach ‘critical and creative thinking’ devoid of deep content knowledge is a farce and not one that we commit to at Carmel School. Without a fundamental understanding of both the basics (literacy and numeracy) as well as subject specific knowledge, no one, let alone young minds, can possibly engage in thinking that is either creative or critical. Attempting to teach generic thinking skills just won’t work.

What does work is teaching students, no matter how young, about a specific topic. Armed with some knowledge, their desire to learn more grows and their questioning becomes more sophisticated.

Jews have a long, successful history of teaching critical thinking alongside deep understanding of content knowledge through Talmud study. Talmud study sharpens the mind so much that it was taken on by many schools in South Korea. Our students see how great thinkers thought before them and mimic and model, learning from example in order to be more steady and steadfast in their own thinking skills. As Mrs Thorpe instructed a few years ago ahead of the Mikolot “we study the speeches of Aristotle and we use his structure as our template. If it worked for him, it will work for us.”

It is not by chance that the Carmel motto is Faith and Knowledge. Faith is easily understood; we are a Jewish school with Jewish values and Jewish teachings. However some may see the ‘knowledge’ part of our motto as passé when we really want to teach our children ‘critical thinking’. Rest assured, it is the emphasis on knowledge that provides the greatest assurance for our students as they enter a world where careers change faster than windows updates. It is knowledge that is the indispensable basis for the jargon heavy lofty motherhood statements of Gonski 2.0. 

Shabbat Shalom