Big problem our schools need to solve
AUSSIE schools are producing kids brimming with creativity and innovation - but there's one glaring problem we're failing to fix.
That's according to rock star maths teacher and Australia's Local Hero for 2018 Eddie Woo, who says our education system struggles to cope with the country's remoteness.
"Australian education is well regarded around the world because we really prize innovation and creativity - there's a reason Silicon Valley is overrun with Australians and we punch above our weight when it comes to scientific invention, and that's because we're great at thinking outside the box, taking risks and ignoring established wisdom that may or may not be correct," Mr Woo told news.com.au.
"I was in Singapore last year and they said to the Australian educators in the group they would love to learn how to cultivate creativity in young people - they are desperate to learn that.
"But one of our challenges is the remoteness of Australia; we're such a huge country and regional and rural communities don't have access to the same type of opportunities that people in metro areas are really spoiled to receive, and that really needs to be addressed.
"There's a lot of work happening by educators in those areas, but they need much more support."
Mr Woo, a maths teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School in northwest Sydney, has become an unlikely celebrity in recent years after his YouTube channel, "Wootube", became a surprise online hit with more than 250,000 subscribers and more than 15 million views.
Originally created to help a sick student who was unable to attend classes, the channel became a tearaway success, and Mr Woo has since been showered with honours, including being named by Bill Gates as one of 10 finalists in the $US1 million 2018 Global Teacher Prize.
He's got a book coming out in September, and has filmed a TV show, Teenage Boss, which will go to air on ABC ME on Sunday.
The show hands complete control of the family finances to a group of teenagers for one month, who, under Mr Woo's guidance, learn how to balance the budget.
"Adolescents have probably never been particularly good at managing money, but I know when I was growing up I saw my parents go to the shops and pay with money that changed hands - now, parents pull out plastic rectangles and use a machine, and it seems a bit like magic," he said.
"It's about peeling back that veil and having that authentic learning experience."
Mr Woo said the Australian syllabus was "really well crafted" with "opportunities for the application of knowledge", but that parents also played an essential role in education.
"What really needs to happen is there needs to be a partnership between families and schools," he said.
"It's easy for parents to say when they move their kids off to high school that 'I was really closely involved during primary school, but now it's a bit too deep so I'm going to outsource it', but I'm a big believer as a parent myself that we need to be deeply involved [in children's education].
"It's about having conversations in the car and around the dinner table about what they learned today and what the relevance is to daily life."
Earlier this year, the NSW Government made Mr Woo a "super teacher" with the official title of leader of innovation for maths teaching, which means he now regularly travels across the state to share ideas with other teachers through workshops and professional development.
But while his high profile has seen countless new opportunities come his way - he told news.com.au "lots of people have tried" to poach him - he's determined to keep doing what he does best for now.
"I love being in the classroom - I know well enough not to stare into a crystal ball, but I have no intent to leave school now," he said.
His biggest piece of advice for Aussie kids? Try your hand at as many activities and opportunities as possible before picking a career.
"When I was at school I was very fortunate to have a lot of extra-curricular opportunities which extended to me being an army cadet as well as a prefect and peer support leader," he said.
"I didn't become an army cadet because I was interested in a military career, but that opportunity showed me that I experienced joy seeing other people learn.
"I'd say to teenagers to be open in the sense of taking on a broad range of different things that are going to be great for you if you're open to them … I'm a pretty spindly, bookish nerd, not a typically great cadet sergeant, but it didn't matter because I was open to learning."
Teenage Boss premiered on Sunday, June 24 at 6.25pm on ABC ME.