The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Headmaster's Reflections

Dear Scotch Community,

Firstly, let me commence by expressing my gratitude to the students, staff and the many parent and family supporters who combined to make our Junior, Middle and Senior School swimming carnivals such an overwhelming success over the previous fortnight. I have been attending such carnivals since 1982 when I commenced teaching. While these events involve a lot of work for many people, they offer one of the many opportunities to bring students together to have fun and participate in healthy Inter-House rivalry. Well done and thanks to everyone.

Our Year 12s also experience one of the major rites of passage at Scotch College, their Ball. I would sincerely like to thank Tanya Hollingsworth, her committee and the volunteers for the time and dedication they put into ensuring our boys and their partners had a simply wonderful evening.

During the week, I circulated a global email about a new partnership the College is embarking on; a partnership geared at promoting the ever-important role creativity plays in the lives of our students, and more importantly, the role creativity plays in the work environment into which they will all enter. Please click here to read the full announcement.

It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that you will hear me say that a boy's learning journey must involve a lot more than simply the transmission of content by an expert. Never before has so much content, on so many topics, been readily available through the communication tools to which our boys have open access.

The role of teachers is to not only present such content, but to do so creatively, bringing discernment, challenging existing assumptions and developing a passion for ongoing learning by our boys well beyond the Year 12 examinations. In our recent MMG Year 5, 8 and 12 exit surveys, parents said that we not only met, but exceed their expectations on quality teaching and academic outcomes. Both of these were identified by parents as the top reasons why they chose to send their son to Scotch College in the first place.

At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, a panel of experts discussed the future of education.

"If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now, we're going to be in trouble. The knowledge-based approach of "200 years ago" would "fail our kids", who would never be able to compete with machines. Children should be taught skills like independent thinking, values and team-work," said Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, China's e-commerce giant.

"Anything that is routine or repetitive will be automated," said Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, in a session on Saving Economic Globalisation from Itself. She also spoke of the importance of creative skills. Research skills, the ability to find information, synthesise it, make something of it."

"Overhauling our education system will be essential to fixing the fractures in our societies and avoiding a tilt towards populism," she said.

"It's no accident that the people who voted for populist parties around the world are people with by-and-large low levels of education. It's not because they're stupid, it's because they're smart. They've figured out this system will not be in their favour."

If you've read about the rising importance of STEM skills - that's Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics - ad infinitum, here's a refreshing view from Fabiola Gianotti, a particle physicist and the Director General of CERN. She's the woman in charge of the Large Hadron Collider as well as other Big Science projects, but she says music is as important as maths.

"We need to break the cultural silos. Too often people put science and the humanities, or science and the arts, in different silos. They are the highest expression of the curiosity and creativity of humanity," she said in a session on education.

"For me, I was a very curious child, I wanted to answer the big questions of how the universe works. My humanities and my music studies have contributed to what I am today as a scientist as much as my physics studies."

This thinking is in line with the current view of STEM needing to evolve into STEAM where the "A" represents Arts.

I recently attended the Schools Curriculum and Standards Authority awards night which recognises the state's brightest students based on our current system of education. I am proud to say that we had three Year 12 students recognised, Lewis Weeda, Timothy Walker and Joshua Pearson.

I have no doubt that many of these students will go on to achieving great things. I am also certain, that while their academic success as 17 and 18 year olds is very impressive, it will be a whole range of other reasons that drives their success in the future. One of those factors will be the ability to think creatively, find alternative solutions and implement such solutions within their chosen field of work.

Much has been written on the topic of creativity and the teaching of the associated skills. In an online article, Miriam Clifford refers to an organisation which one of our keynote presenters, Paul Collard, to which I refer in my global email, is currently working. Organisations such as CCE (Creativity, Culture, Education) suggest teachers incorporate opportunities for students to ask questions, while intentionally designing lessons that allow for wondering and exploration.

As a College that teaches the Western Australian and Australian Curriculums through using the inquiry strategies of the International Baccalaureate, this approach is not a new journey, in fact it is one of the key reasons that FORM were keen to partner with our College.

I look forward to our partnership being implemented in many ways across all sub-schools and invite you to stay informed, participate where possible and encourage your own son (s) creative journey.

Have a great fortnight

Dr A J O'Connell