Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The “Good Enough” Education System

By Professor Mary O’Kane

Does Australia have the education system it needs for a vibrant economic future?

Professor Mary O’Kane FTSE is the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and also Executive Chairman of Mary O’Kane & Associates Pty Ltd, which advises governments, universities and the private sector on innovation, research education and development. She is also Chair of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy and the CRC for Spatial Information.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Concerns are expressed almost daily that while Australia has emerged relatively unscathed from the world economic crisis and is in the midst of a resources-driven boom, the country is facing a major challenge in the decline of its productivity growth.

Conventional wisdom tells us that for productivity growth to occur, a nation needs innovation, and a key enabler of that innovation is a strong education system.

In 1953 the British paediatrician Donald Winnicott introduced the concept of the “good-enough mother”, highlighting that children benefit most from a mother who begins with almost “complete adaptation to her infant’s needs” but as time progresses she “adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure”. The good-enough mother is not neglectful but provides a container for the child to develop by experiencing failure and learning-by-doing. Winnicott asserted that the good-enough mother is better for children than the perfect mother.

So when it comes to influencing productivity growth, do we have a “good-enough education system”? One way to explore this is to examine how education contributes to innovation in Australia by studying various international indices that gauge a country’s innovation capacity through a set of indicators.

Australia is currently placed 20th in the world –...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.