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Purpose statement for public education

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The world is changing and the future we’re educating young people for will be different from today. Our public education needs to adapt to this change to give our children and young people the best opportunity to thrive.

We want your help to shape the purpose of public education in South Australia.

We'll use your opinions and feedback to develop a purpose statement, a set of guiding principles, and measures of success for our public education system.

The Chief Executive discusses how we can shape the future of education in SA (7:39)

Why we need a purpose statement

We need to be clear about what we’re trying to provide for our students so we can measure whether we’re achieving it.

Our people, geography, communities and industries are unique. We need to build upon statements such as the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration and the Statement on Public Education in South Australia to ensure what we provide meets our students’ needs and takes advantage of the opportunities we have as a community.

Get involved

We want to hear what you have to say about how public education can support young people for the future, including what you think are the most important aspects and outcomes of public education.

We’re collecting feedback from the following groups.


Please fill out our student survey (takes less than 5 minutes). Note, resources such as a parent letter have been sent to all schools.

In 2022 we held forums to hear from students across South Australia. In early 2023, we’ll create specific opportunities and materials to ensure we hear from a diverse range of voices. This includes our youngest learners, students with a disability, Aboriginal students, students from a CALD background, children in care and children involved in the justice system.


Please fill out our parent and carer survey (takes less than 5 minutes).

Parents, carers and families play an important role in a child’s learning journey.

Education staff

Please fill out our staff survey (takes less than 5 minutes).

The purpose statement EDi page (staff login required) will have more information as we finish planning these activities.

Community members, supporting organisations and industry

Please fill out our community survey and consider sending us a written submission.

Timelines and next steps

Some engagement activities have already begun. Surveys and the call for written submissions will open on 30 January 2023 until 17 March 2023.

We will then develop and launch a purpose statement, a set of guiding principles, and measures of performance for our public education system.

Research and questions to consider

Below is a summary of some of the thoughts of prominent education experts and researchers from around the world. They are provided as a guide to assist in informing your responses in a written submission. However, you are encouraged to investigate the issues and consider the research yourself. Here are some links to organisations that undertake research into education:

What the future asks of young people has changed

Learning and achievement

We want our students to achieve and become great learners, a skill they can carry through their lives.

Capabilities such as literacy, numeracy and digital skills will continue to be key and support students develop knowledge and capabilities to learn, innovate, problem solve, work collaboratively and creatively, and foresee and adapt to emerging issues.

Research suggests learning and achievement do not stand apart from other aspects of the student experience. Elements such as wellbeing (for students and staff), building strong relationships and sense of belonging, how empowered students feel to make decisions (student agency) and how we integrate support systems combine to determine how each of our students does at school.

  1. What should be the overriding purpose of public education in South Australia?

Wellbeing and connection are foundations for life

Education enriches students’ lives, helps them reach their potential, and supports them to develop wellbeing. Skills to maintain positive wellbeing, like resilience and a sense of self, are critical to students’ performance at school and beyond.

Education also contributes to the development of tomorrow’s citizens and their ability to fully participate in their communities. The skills students develop through their education to connect with each other and their communities contribute to the quality of life they will have as adults.

In the words of international education advisor Sir Ken Robinson, ‘The aim of education is to enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.’

Robert Waldinger – the good life: lessons from longest study on happiness (3:00)
  1. What skills and capabilities should public education encourage so students can thrive and navigate the world after they complete school?
  2. What do you expect from the public education system to support students to thrive emotionally at school?

Education after secondary school has changed

Public education provides a pathway to students’ future learning.

In the past, learning facts was the basis of much of education. Now a world of information is accessible with a few taps on a device. The skills to thrive in life and in higher education and vocational training have changed because we are surrounded by readily available information. While knowledge and capabilities such as literacy and numeracy will continue to be vital, students will need to demonstrate they are learning to adapt these skills and use them to innovate and solve problems.

  1. What specific skills and capabilities do you think graduates need to thrive in further education?

Work is changing

Public education contributes to South Australia by providing students with foundational skills to begin their future careers and go on to shape the future of industry in this state.

Technology has transformed the workforce. Routine work, work with a large portion of repeated tasks, is being replaced by automated computer processes. One in three jobs in Australia are at risk of being automated, with work automation expected to speed up due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, professions requiring interpersonal skills, like aged and disability care, and those with a high level of technology skills, like systems administration and ICT security specialists, are growing and projected to grow.

While knowledge acquisition and achieving growth for every student will continue to be key to public education, our young people need to develop the skills to use and complement technology, so they are first-class humans, not second-class robots.

Student development of essential skills (4:52)

How has education changed in response to social forces? (3:05)

  1. What specific skills and capabilities do you think students will need to thrive at work in the future?
  2. In preparing students to participate in the industries of the future, what is the role of:
    1. public education?
    2. business and industry?
    3. non-governmental organisations?

Work will continue to change

Our young people will not only drive South Australia’s future economy, their abilities will shape our future economy—and create opportunity in South Australia. Future work will require our young people to continue to learn throughout their lives and transfer their learning to new situations.

  1. How can we encourage joy in learning for students to help them build a love of life-long learning?

Strong promise, flexible delivery

Research shows education is most successful when systems, preschools and schools are unusually effective at meeting the needs of individuals and education is valued as a path to personal fulfilment.

Our education system needs to balance the flexibility required to help each student do well with the rigour to ensure every student receives high quality education.

Design principles for schools can help, but schools cannot meet this challenge alone. Other organisations and sectors must be involved to provide the range, diversity and personalisation of learning opportunities that young people need.

  1. How can our education system be flexible enough to build on the strengths of individual students while ensuring all students receive a high-quality education experience?
  2. What research and experiences from other places can South Australia learn from?

Supporting our teachers, support staff and principals

More than 30,000 staff work in our public preschools and schools. They are part of a truly transformative profession that can change the direction of the lives of their students.

Our staff can help each student do well if they have the support and flexibility to develop and trust their professional judgement.

  1. Is there any change in the skills, tools and support our staff need to apply their profession for the benefit of each student?

Working with you

Educating our children for the future is not something preschools and schools can achieve alone. Students and our staff need the support, expertise and encouragement of the community.

We need the community to feel a part of our education system. We need to work together to make future decisions on the direction of public education.

  1. How would you or your organisation like to be involved in any future opportunities for discussions about public education in South Australia?

External Relations

Phone: 8207 2087
Email: Education.ExternalRelations@sa.gov.au