NSW could be falling behind other Australian states and the rest of the world in teaching students key life skills, according to a curriculum expert who is calling for schools to look beyond traditional subjects.
"There needs to be more recognition that schools have a responsibility for the development of a range of skills, values and attitudes," said Phil Lambert, lead curriculum expert in the OECD's Education 2030 project and former general manager of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
"At the moment our focus is at the subject matter level rather than on the whole child," said Dr Lambert, who was recently commissioned by the NSW Department of Education to write a paper on the future of schooling.
In his paper, Dr Lambert identified a range of key competencies that many countries are now beginning to include in their school curricula, including problem solving, communication, resilience and intercultural understanding.
While these areas are now included in both the Australian and NSW curricula, Dr Lambert said there needs to be a bigger push to ensure they are being properly taught at every school.
"Some teachers are aware of and competent in a range of these areas and some aren't, it's chance," Dr Lambert said.
"Your child might happen to be in a school where these are given a lot of attention, but I don't think we know across the country who's doing what and how they're doing it.
"That's not what you see in other countries; they're very serious about progressing these things."
Dr Lambert said countries such as Japan and Finland are actively working to give particular attention to these areas in schools.
"Japan has a range of innovative schools that are progressing that work and reporting back to the government on what they've learnt and how that can be shared," Dr Lambert said.
"We don't have anything like that in Australia."
However, Dr Lambert's paper identifies Victoria as leading the way nationally, with its curriculum further developing the competencies and setting out "a scope and sequence of learning and achievement standards" for each capability.
Chief executive of the Australian College of Educators Helen Jentz said much greater teacher training and support is also needed across Australia for its schools to keep up with the rest of the world.
"If Australia's robust set of competencies are changing, growing and evolving, we must ensure our teachers who are at the coal face of this can do the same," Ms Jentz said.
"How educators are going to teach these soft skills needs to be a key component in the Gonski review and national curriculum review."
Dr Lambert said NSW is moving in the right direction but more work needs to be done.
"There's a lot of work taking place in NSW, there's a desire to progress," he said.
"We've been very successful in giving particular attention to specific subject areas and it's fair and right to ensure young people have basic literacy and numeracy skills, but there are other essentials."
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said that Dr Lambert's paper was commissioned as part of a project looking at what "developments in artificial intelligence and automation...mean for how we prepare today's students".
"[Dr Lambert's] paper notes that in NSW the general capabilities are already included in our current syllabus structure," the spokesman said.