thinkbankIn 2013 Tasmanian Leaders launched the Thinkbank initiative and convened a Thinkbank dedicated to the topic of education in Tasmania in November.

Thinkbank provides a forum for participatory conversations in which Tasmanian Leaders Program graduates apply theories and knowledge gained from the program in a practical context. It brings with it the opportunity for participants to share learnings to stimulate further conversation and involvement throughout the organisation’s broader network.

Tasmanian Leaders chose to focus on education for its first Thinkbank reflective of the frequency with which challenges in this sector were identified as amenable to change, and its potential for significant impact. The twelve participating graduates brought with them their own experiences of education – as students, parents, employers and community members – in addition to undertaking a targeted independent investigation with educators, business and community leaders.

The Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals for Young Australians (December 2008) opens with an acknowledgement of the central role of education in building a democratic, equitable and just society. Thinkbank participants quickly discovered that the lived experience of education for many Tasmanians is not consistent with this.

Indeed, Tasmania’s educational attainment and performance has historically lagged behind other states, which can be seen as both a cause and effect of the steeper socio-economic gradient present in the Tasmanian community relative to the rest of Australia. This has far-reaching implications for the state.

A fair society is one that doesn’t let socio-economic status impact on participation in community life. The socio-economic gradient currently present in Tasmania leads to differences in educational opportunities and outcomes which are unnecessary, unfair, unjust and largely avoidable.

Thinkbank concluded that the challenge of addressing this situation – by increasing the recognition of the value of education and supporting participation across a range of life-long learning opportunities – is a whole of community responsibility. Research showed that increased investment does not always increase educational outcomes, while investigative studies highlighted the significant work that Tasmanian educators are already undertaking. Examples of achievement are showcased in the case studies throughout the paper.

Three areas were identified as offering the greatest scope for action and change – they are:

  • Community engagement and participation
  • Innovation and collaboration, and
  • The value of life-long learning.

The paper provides an overview of these themes, documents learnings from the process and represents a launching point for further discussion. It also lists pledges from participants, reflecting their individual commitment to action.

To download a copy of the background reading, Learning to Change Tasmania by Professors Eleanor Ramsay and Michael Rowan of the Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society (UTAS), please click here.
To download a copy of the final Thinkbank report, please click here.