Dramatic decisions on the future of learning and teaching will be made deliberately or by default as communities emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns and create a new normal.
We are living with pandemics, more extreme weather events due to global warming, unprecedented levels of anxiety and mental illness, and countries deeply divided along political lines.
The opportunity for education is unparalleled: to use all the insights and experiences gained from the warp-speed reorganisation of learning to online delivery, virtually overnight, or to return to the old paradigm which still hearkens back to the beginnings of universal education in Australia.
We can reimagine education that puts students at the centre of our endeavours, and design learning that will better prepare young people for their future rather than our past. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that, unless educators approach intentionally, could slip through our fingers.
Kingswood College has spent the years since 2011 rethinking education. Following the introduction of our unique LATTICE framework in 2013, and many smaller scale innovations since then, we undertook a wide-ranging secondary school review in 2019 that expanded to be a whole College review of our learning priorities. As we began to plan for the implementation of our recommendations from the review, the world changed overnight: COVID-19 came to Melbourne.
This global upheaval has only served to reinforce the clarity with which we will continue to pursue our reform agenda and our ongoing commitment to relentless evolution.
In 2021, we will move to a wardrobe of active wear, replacing our traditional school uniform. Students whose lives will reach into the 22nd century do not need to dress in the garb of their grandparents. When 90 percent of young people in Australia do not get the amount of physical activity, they need to maintain their wellbeing, it is incumbent on educators to remove barriers to more physical activity.
Comfortable clothing they can move more easily in is one step; it has never made more sense than while we have all been learning from home, working in more relaxed attire.
A second barrier in schools is the timetable, and angst about ‘losing time’ to other activities. The wrong question is being asked when, instead, we need to ask what young people most need to thrive and be happy. Here at Kingswood College we also ask what they need to Belong, Thrive and Achieve.
Starting in 2021, we will begin the journey of scheduling daily physical activity with our students, and it will evolve to best suit their needs and interests.
In 2020, we began the full-scale implementation of our unique Global Citizens Program at Year 7, and this will continue to develop, expanding into Year 8 in 2021, and Year 9 in 2022. The focus of this project-based, transdisciplinary experience is the UN Sustainable Development Goals because these are the challenges of our time. COVID-19 has shown us all that we need to think at local, national, and global scales and find ways to collaborate across boundaries if we are going to improve our global village.
Our commitment to Innovation, Collaboration and Engagement are building blocks of the learning program being developed, as are the research findings of the Foundation for Young Australians, who note that in 2030, workers will spend:
- almost 100 percent more time solving problems.
- 26 percent more time engaging in self-directed work.
- 30 percent more time learning on the job.
These frames are helping us to develop an education that better prepares our young people for their future, not our past.
As a nation, it is time to review how we value the character, qualities, progress, and achievement of our young adults at the end of their schooling. It is heartening to see research papers sponsored by government, philanthropic sources, universities, and other researchers beginning the much-needed conversation. Now is the hour for teachers and students to step into the arena and engage in the debate about how we can better recognise the accomplishments of young people – it is a challenge to be celebrated, not feared!
And as we search for the silver linings to come out of Lockdown 1 and Lockdown 2 in Melbourne, there are many:
- We went to online learning almost overnight, and made it work. On Sunday, March 22, the first lockdown was announced, and schools were closed from the end of Monday, March 23. Kingswood College did three mornings of remote learning to acclimatise and returned after the holidays ready to roll out our full program. How amazing is that! As a profession, globally, would we have taken up this change if given a year to contemplate and plan? I wonder…
- Our Year 12 students are the best prepared of any I have known to tackle the nature of tertiary education in our times. They have been more independent, organised, and shown greater resilience. We will watch their future, confident that they have many of the skills needed to succeed in life.
- As a school community we understand each other so much better. Teachers have been in families’ loungerooms and kitchens; students have – sometimes inadvertently – met our teachers’ children, partners, and pets during remote lessons. Parents have spent more time than ever before in their children’s classrooms and engaged in their school learning. It has not always been easy, but we know each other far more than before!
As a profession, we should celebrate being able to deliver such significant change in the blink of an eye. And we should use these skills to bring into being the changes that we know will deliver a better learning experience for our young people. We have shown that we can do it!
We can engage in relentless evolution which results in preparing young people for their future, not our past. Kingswood College will continue this mission, with even greater enthusiasm and resolve than pre-pandemic.