Principal's Blog - 30 April 2020

29 Apr 2020

Dear Members of the Marcellin Family,

As I have been hearing some inspiring stories from our Home Learning Program (HLP) my thoughts have turned to reflecting on the extent to which online learning fits our educational philosophy here at Marcellin. While there can be little doubt that onsite learning is the overall preferred option for a range of reasons, online learning, for a period of time, offers many opportunities for skill development, independent learning, initiative and creativity. These things are enormously valuable as tools which can enhance outcomes for both students and teachers. They are also an integral part of the learning framework we are continuing to develop at the College.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend a workshop facilitated by Finnish educationalist Pasi Sahlberg. Pasi has been an advisor to governments around the world and is currently working here in Australia as Professor of Educational Policy and Deputy Director, Gonski Institute for Education at the University of New South Wales. In the workshop I attended, his assessment of why some education systems around the world seem to be improving and some are not was thought provoking and gave plenty of information for us here in Australia to mill over. While hard to capture the nuances of his presentation here, the following summary will give you sense of what was emphasized.

Why some education systems don’t improve? Because there is an over emphasis on STANDARDISATION.

Specifically:

  • Competition.
  • Test-based accountability (eg NAPLAN).
  • De-professionalisation of teaching.
  • Addiction to reform (while there is nothing wrong with reform where needed, his point here was that there can be too much focus on innovation and change at the expense of improving what you’re currently doing).
  • Too much talk of ‘Excellence.’

Why some education systems do better? Because there is an emphasis on CREATIVITY.

Specifically:

  • Collaboration (when schools compete, they don’t collaborate).
  • Trust based responsibility (cultivate professional lateral accountability; “accountability is what is left when responsibility is taken away.”)
  • High level of teacher professionalism.
  • Sustained improvement (sustainable development rather than reforming).
  • Equity.

It would indeed be interesting to study the impact on student learning if schools and school systems:

  • emphasised collaboration over competition
  • emphasised trust based responsibility over test based accountability
  • emphasised the professionalism of teachers
  • emphasised sustained improvement rather than endless reforms
  • and emphasised equity rather than excellence

During this period of online learning I have heard much about very high levels of collaboration, trust, teacher professionalism, skill development and improvement and a genuine attempt for inclusion and equity. So far, the feedback we are getting is indicating this is widespread. Today (Friday 1 May 2020) the College has sent a new survey to all in the community to get some feedback about this week’s adjustments to the HLP. I look forward to your ongoing contribution to the evaluation of our HLP and your continued engagement with the College as we work in partnership to support your sons.

With blessings for the week ahead.

John Hickey
Principal