We must not replace meritocracy with mediocrity

As I watch the National Press Club address by Julie Bishop, I am inspired with her launch of National Science week.

Any individual, organisation or nation relies upon a limited array of key assets and competencies to build and maintain its competitive advantage. Like a business as explained by John Kay, these typically take the form of Architecture, Reputation, Innovation and Strategic Assets. I would add to these the gift of foresight gained through close connection and understanding of the environment. An individual needs to be connected, to build their personal branding and reputation, to be flexible and innovative and ready to learn, and may also possess a range of strategic assets that might yield short-term superordinary results. Likewise for nations.

Individual teachers inspire individual students. Great teachers – particularly those who are passionate and uplifting – impact directly upon the lives of thousands and indirectly upon millions, and are one of the most crucial predictors of outstanding outcomes. I’m not sure whether great teachers are necessary and they are certainly not sufficient for excellence in their students, but almost every great mind that I’ve come across has had at least one and often more profoundly powerful influencers in their life.

Science is one of the few areas where Australia has a history of superior performance (we have the highest per-capita rate of Nobel Prize Laureattes). How can we use that?

Excellence is a challenge… yet it is the only way for us to move forward.