Principals Pen Thursday, 18 July 2019

Change is all around us. We live in a world where the rate of change is increasing exponentially. Education is certainly not immune to change. In fact, educationalists report that schooling has long stood still, and now needs to work doubly fast to catch up with industry and the rest of the world.

Living Faith is recognised as a leader in educational improvement and it’s been encouraging in recent years to see more and more schools transitioning to a futures-focused approach to education, with new high-profile schools having adopted a similar philosophy and language to that of Living Faith. (Examples include Canberra’s Margaret Hendry School, Sydney’s Lindfield Learning Village and Victoria’s Templestowe College).

Some people struggle with change. Especially change in education. Most of us experienced our own schooling under the industrial model of education (the cookie-cutting, assembly-line model). It ‘worked’ for us and it’s familiar to us. Further, because we had our own schooling experience and because we can Google, we think we know education. The shift to a future-focussed model for our children – and indeed the need for this shift – can be difficult to understand for those who hold tight to what once was and whose comfort zones lie in the industrial model.

Neuroscience research has skyrocketed in the 21st century, radically challenging what we thought we knew about how the brain works, the plasticity of the brain, the conditions required for motivation, and how children learn. In the same way that we expect medical practitioners to treat us using the latest research as opposed to the equipment and knowledge of years gone by, we must expect that schools will take what we are learning from current neuroscience and educational research to design a physical and pedagogical learning environment that will best serve the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students.

If current neuroscience research is not enough of a case for change in education, then let’s look at changes to our world.

Western Sydney University’s Associate Professor Amanda Third says that adults often make a distinction between ‘digital life’ and ‘real life’. Today’s children were born into and have only ever known what we call the ‘digital life’ and so, to today’s children, there is no distinction between these two lives, it’s all just life.

15 years ago we had never heard of many concepts that are now embedded in our daily lives: smartphones, tablets, smart watches, touch screens, 4G, 5G, the Cloud, YouTube, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Spotify, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Bitcoin, Netflix, AirBnB, Uber, Lime Scooters… you get the picture. These things didn’t exist during our own schooling experience, and have revolutionised our world. Barely would we experience a waking hour without use of at least a couple of these concepts, and so it’s hard to believe that 15 years ago they didn’t exist. What will our world look like 15 years from now? A mysterious future is the world in which our children will be living; searching for employment, nurturing their own families, and seeking purpose and fulfilment.

Schools must change. Not once, but habitually. Students need new skills for their future, well beyond the academic achievement goals that have been the sole priority in the past. To help students be future-ready, we need to foster within them grit, adaptability, leadership skills, an ability to work with people from different cultures, and a compassionate heart, as well as proficiency in solving complex problems, creating, communicating, collaborating, learning, unlearning, and relearning. For schools to teach only the things of years gone by (things that are now predominantly automated in the workforce) and for schools to teach using the methods of years gone by (dismissing the knowledge we now have about how the brain works), would lead only to disadvantaging our students.

It’s clear. We must embrace change. If not for ourselves, then for the sake of our children. After all, the future will happen regardless of whether or not we are ready for it or comfortable with it.

Change can be both exciting and frightening, depending on the mindset of the individual. Change requires a willingness to look at problems with new eyes, and an openness to let go of the old in order to reach out for the new.

I could speak for hours about mindsets in relation to change. Instead, I offer you something much more inspiring: a list of some of my favourite quotes from world leaders, change makers and educationalists dated 400 BC to the current era. Some quotes are thought-provoking, some are confronting and some are plain satirical. All, however, provide stimulus for appreciating that education must not be left behind in our exponentially-changing world, if we want our children to thrive in an unknown future.

  • Sometimes we teach things because they are important to us and our past, not because they are important to students' futures. David Geurin
  • There are two types of schools: those that prepare kids for the future, and those that allow adults to live comfortably in the past. Ian Jukes
  • Do not let what is comfortable for adults trump what is best for the future for students. International Centre for Leadership in Education
  • Do we want our children to be catching up or leading the way? Yong Zhao
  • We aren’t teaching children from 20 years ago, so our classrooms shouldn’t be the same as 20 years ago either. David Geurin
  • People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones. Charles F Kettering
  • It is the nature of man as he grows older to protest against change, particularly change for the better. John Steinbeck
  • The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. Socrates
  • Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited of what could go right. Tony Robins
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. Martin Luther King, Jr
  • Students today depend on paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper? Principal’s Publication, 1815
  • ‘For I know I have plans for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11

- Jane Mueller, Principal