From the Principal
Dear Members of the De La Salle Community,
As we approach a well-deserved break over the next two weeks I would like to offer some thoughts in relation to where I see education going. Recent innovations, events and directions within De La Salle provide some examples of how we are adapting to these changes and providing opportunities and in particular, the changes in education we need to embrace to support our young men in their development as 21st century learners.
Last week we held our very first Year 9 Inquiry Expo in and around the Tiverton Library and surrounding corridors. This was the culmination of many months of work from the Year 9 students and their Inquiry program teachers as they negotiated a “big idea” to explore, research and present on to a wider audience. A key vehicle for this was the City Experience, where each class spent a week in the city conducting research.
An intrinsic part of the course is to move away from traditional content driven curriculum where teacher instruction and knowledge dominates. Students are enabled and empowered to create their own knowledge, work with a team, define a problem and develop a solution which fits and will benefit some aspect of society.
Topics and questions for research and presentation of finding included a variety of tourism issues, safety, graffiti vs art, Melbourne’s laneways, various environmental/sustainability concerns and public transport concepts.
The topics and even the quality and findings of the presentations were of less consequence than the boys’ skills and learnings form the whole experience. We are striving to build enterprise skills in our students, especially in this Year 9 program. These are the 21st century skills our students must develop to operate, compete and contribute not just in Year 10 -12 as they go through De La Salle, but universities and workplaces are demanding these skills: problem solving, critical thinking, communication, creativity, digital literacy, financial literacy, teamwork and presentation skills. These are flexible and transferable skills, covering a vast array of jobs and workplace settings.
The high demand for enterprise skills underscores the importance of general capabilities being retained and their credence elevated in the curriculum. A number of countries around the world have taken steps to redesign their curriculum and explicitly embed 21st century competencies and enterprise skills like problem solving, collaboration, global awareness and communication skills into the curriculum.
The presentations at the expo certainly varied in apparent, visible quality. What they didn’t show was the skills, the process and the hidden learnings the students developed in this project. Confidence, interest and creativity are critical to students’ learning; working on the projects in Year 9 Inquiry generated these. To take responsibility, work within and manage differences in a team and to develop independence are crucial. Regardless of what we saw in the individual group presentations, all boys have been exposed to these by virtue of their experiences in Inquiry.
A special thank you to our Year 9 Inquiry Coordinator Mr Heath Tregear and indeed all the Year 9 Class Mentors who worked so closely with their charges – Andrew Murrell, Chris Fleming, Shane Slavin, Michael Wilson, Ryan Hayward, Aoife Birmingham and Emma D’Angelo.
The work being done on so many fronts in Year 9 is reflective of the general approach across the school, from Year 4 – 12, as we continue rebuilding our curriculum. Of most significance is the philosophical approach to our curriculum design and the pedagogies underpinning these courses.
By coincidence, our Careers Advisor Mrs Caroline Fitzpatrick attended a seminar last week where Julia Gillard presented on the future of education. Quite independent of her previous status as Labor Prime Minister, Ms Gillard outlined some challenging questions, key truths and driving forces surrounding the immediate future of education. I’ve selected some extracts from her key points below:
The professional journeys of today’s young people will be undertaken in a world of rapid change. A world where 60% of graduate occupations will be disrupted by automation.
To thrive in this era, which is witnessing the greatest technological change since the industrial revolution, young people will need to be innovative, entrepreneurial, resilient and in touch with global trends. Being able to adapt to new technology, to embrace change and to think globally will be vitally needed skills.
This poses the question ‘How must education adapt to prepare our young people for their professional lives in the world’?
- With changes to technology occurring at such a rapid pace it is not the facts and figures that come from our text books that students need, it is the skills and the ability to be resourceful that will enable them to keep up with an ever changing world.
- Knowledge is necessary but so is balance. ‘Knowledge content’ is changing rapidly and becomes irrelevant at time of change.
How do we prepare our students for the future, when many of the jobs they will embark on do not exist yet?
- We need to teach so that students have the confidence to embrace change and innovation and to have entrepreneurial skills that will equip them for the ever changing world that they will be part of.
- When we were at school the changes in the world were not so rapid; we could see them or possibly predict them. We knew that communication was going to become so much more mobile; the first mobile phone that came out was going to become smaller and more user friendly, but could we predict what is happening today? Can we keep up with the changes? My response would be “No”. So the solution is to be less reliant on pure content base and be more focussed on the skills that we develop.
- Universities are trying to keep up with the changes and equipping their graduates with skills for the future.
- Many courses now have compulsory work internships for 6–12 months as part of their course content. This is giving credence to the need for graduates to have work place skills as well as knowledge when they graduate.
- Global education is part of today’s courses where universities encourage students to take a portion of their studies overseas.
- Trimester is becoming popular in courses today instead of semesters. Fast tracking university degrees, two years instead of the traditional three. Students do not need three month breaks in the 21st century (three month breaks were first created so students could return back home to properties to assist with crops etc. This is not relevant today.)
We need to constantly re-visit education with fresh eyes to enable us all to prepare our young people for the future.
This all presents exciting but challenging days on the educational horizon. The good news is that these ideas are not new to us at De La Salle. With many of our leaders engaged in research, networks and broad professional reading it is these contemporary – and future – realities which are providing the backbone of our curriculum design and professional learning for staff. Bring it on!
I wish all De La Salle families a safe, happy and restful break. There won’t be much rest for the Year 12 students as they prepare for trial exams in the second week of the break but their reward will be forthcoming when their work comes to fruition through strong performances in the final exams. Personal excellence is the goal for all our young men and if they are honest with themselves and apply genuine effort as they work towards goals then they’ll get no criticism from me.
Mr Peter Houlihan