Portrait Series: Interview with Jan Owen, Learning Creates Australia
Her mission is our collective future as an inclusive, imaginative and courageous world.
16 01 2021
Portrait Series: Interview with Jan Owen, Learning Creates Australia

Jan Owen’s career has included leading national conversations, campaigns and advocacy on the rights and unlimited potential of children and young people around the globe; the future of education and work; and, building powerful community, business, government and philanthropic investment and partnerships.

She is a national thought leader on the future of work and young people, the adaptable workforce, and the transformation of education in Australia.

Jan was named one of Australia’s True Leaders in 2018 and the Inaugural Australian Financial Review and Westpac Woman of Influence in 2012 for her relentless commitment to unleashing the talent of young people, driving social innovation and entrepreneurship and leading change in education.

She has been awarded honorary Doctorates from the University of Sydney and Murdoch University in Perth, and membership to the Order of Australia in 2000 for services to the Australian community.

She is the author of Every Childhood Lasts a Lifetime (1996) and The Future Chasers (2014).

Why did you co-create Learning Creates Australia?


Young people, parents and employers have become very vocal. Our 19th/20th century education model has been failing students in increasing numbers. It is clearly not fit for purpose in a world where change and adaptation are a constant requirement within the world of work, within our environment and within our social and economic systems. We believe education must be reimagined in collaboration with young people and the engagement of the entire eco-system, within and outside of the school environment.

What are the key challenges that you are addressing / how?


By the end of 13 years of schooling in Australia we have reduced learning to a score, just one number.

Think about how ludicrous that is when day to day learning, particularly in the 21st century, is predominately in time/on the job, organic and experimental. In order to teach, mentor and learn we need to genuinely see the whole young person and what they know and can do in many ways and diverse contexts.

We have adopted an innovative Social Lab approach which involves diverse stakeholders and uses evidence, design thinking, prototyping and testing to develop new ways to recognise learning, particularly for those students who have been disenfranchised, disengaged or excluded from the education system.

Why do you believe it is important to celebrate learning ("learning to take care of oneself, others and the planet"), especially after what we all have been through in 2020?


Learning is a mindset we carry through our entire lives. An 82 year old, like my father, can cultivate a Beginner's Mindest full of interest, curiosity, openness and without judgement. A 17 year old like Greta Thunberg can bring a Mature Mindset looking at the essential nature and connectivity of all things. It is being able to access and activate many different mindsets, rather than our fixed worldviews, that cultivates lifelong learning. Staying open, collaborative and adaptive to both new and ancient ways of doing and being are our key learnings from 2020.

We are being called upon to act as true global citizens. What we do anywhere in the world today simultaneously impacts people globally and locally.

We have less than a decade to reverse the damage we have wrought on Mother Earth. Already the repercussions are being felt.

Ensuring our children gain the knowledge, skills, tools and know-how to build a safe, just and sustainable world should be our No 1 priority. Lifelong learning is both a right and an existential necessity to be unleashed, nurtured and celebrated in every child and young person. As communities, organisations, corporations or governments, we must see education and learning as a genuinely collective endeavour. Our future depends upon it.

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