In 2006, Big Picture Company Australia (BPCA) was established, in partnership with the Big Picture in the US. BPCA aims to bring the proven benefits of the Big Picture philosophy to Australia through customising the Big Picture ideas and methodologies to suit the needs of Australian students and their communities. We know we can do this within the current curriculum and assessment context for the same level of funding that each of these students would obtain in larger schools. This can be achieved by establishing systems of small schools.
There is significant room to improve educational outcomes in Australia. Currently over 14% of teenagers in Australia are not in full-time learning or work (Dusseldorp Skills Forum, 2006). In addition, 20% of young Australians fail to complete year 12 or its equivalent (Business Council of Australia, 2005). This level of education is not high in comparison to other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (Sweet, 2006; Kelly, 2006). Nor are educational outcomes equitable. Indigenous people, rural populations and low economic, social and cultural status groups are all disadvantaged by Australia’s education system (ABS, 2006; ABS, 2003).
In Australia, we are seeking to work with other interested parties to customise the American ideas, practices and principles for Australian students and their communities. While there are differences between the Australian and American education systems, the design principles of BPC (USA), which have been developed over the past 20 years, have strong resonance with the Australian reform context.
Recent reforms in Australian education are beginning to focus on the learner and how the curriculum might be personalised to engage young people. Over the past 20 years, there have also been middle schooling reforms. Acceptance and understanding regarding the need for vocational education and applied learning in schools has increased, acknowledging that teaching ‘real world’ skills and providing specialised one-on-one support and alternative settings for ‘at risk’ students can improve students’ transitions into the workforce.