I’m just in from the final Headmaster’s Symposium of the academic year. These have been a series of panel discussions with the community, and the focus of this month’s was “The Future of CA.” DJ, the Headmaster, invited me to on the panel as a teacher and coordinator, along with a couple of of teachers (see Liz’s intro here) and some parents. It was an engaging experience.
The symposium started with opening remarks to set up our ideas. Here’s my wee bit (it was longer in the drafting stages, but it was truncated to try to fit three minutes). Here’s the video.
We are right to be concerned about the future of CA, though I don’t believe we need to be concerned with being a ‘school of the future’* in order to thrive.
As we become more connected and on-demand, there is more abundant and faster access to knowledge. But there will still be a need – and a market – for education: the processes of learning and of learning how to learn. As long as there are children there will be schools.
Schooling has become about much more than transmission of content and its subsequent measurement by test, though it is still where students go when their parents are working. It plays a crucial role in socialisation, values education and developing skills. Schools are a step in the journey of a student’s lifelong learning and a central part of our society. However, society – and universities – judge us by what we know (our curriculum) and what we can do (measured through assessment).
In 1975 Denis Lawton wrote that curriculum is essentially a ‘selection from a culture’ and that:
“Certain aspects of our way of life, certain kinds of knowledge, certain attitudes and values are regarded so important that their transmission to the next generation is not left to chance in society but is entrusted to specially-trained professionals (teachers) in elaborate and expensive institutions (schools).“
What is (and has been for many years) changing is the globalisation of international education. Our schools represent diverse cultures, with their own knowledge and values, yet we are building another culture of internationalism. The selection from this culture is the collection of skills, knowledge, attitudes and values we are passing on to the next generation.
With broad and balanced programmes such as the PYP, MYP and IBDP we allow our students to develop as learners ready for a changing world, while also preparing them for the competitive nature of university entry and university success. We emphasise higher-order thinking skills that serve students well. Universities recognise that IB graduates are well-prepared, and ready to learn and the IB works hard on our behalf to further grow recognition of its programmes.
At the same time, they are reviewing and updating those frameworks based on strong educational research. Through this process, the backwash-effect of university demands on schools should over time be felt less dramatically, as we eventually strike a balance between educational innovation in schools and the prescriptive demands of university entry.
Furthermore, with the boom in learning technology and educational research we are in a position to enhance the schooling experience. We can open students up to the global classroom and we can evaluate our impacts on student learning with more effectiveness and efficiency.
We now know more about what works well in education than we ever have. Reflective and evidence-based practice should be the educational trend that we adopt ahead of others.
We are better informed about education and better equipped to meet students’ diverse needs. Taking appropriate action on this is how CA can ensure its future success.
The point of this, were it not clear enough, was to show that we are a strong school in a strong position, despite the current economic challenges. As we see the written curriculum and professional development of the school develop, we can only get stronger. We have a strengthening integration of technology and the beginnings of a more data- and evidence-driven approach to teaching and learning. As well as engaging with content and concepts, students are creating, analysing and solving problems. They are becoming good young leaders and global citizens who do well at university.
As the discussion ran through the panel and the audience, conversations steered through learning, technology and, largely, financial issues. There were many interesting points made by parents, teachers and the panel members. Of particular interest to me were some points about getting us ‘out there’ and making the good work that goes on much more visible. We need to really showcase our efforts, engage more as a school with the communities – local, global and virtual – that can help us generate a positive footprint and attract (and retain) families and teachers.
*of course we need to be forward-thinking: this statement means we shouldn’t feel compelled to ride a wave of educational trends to become ‘futuristic’ and instead focus on becoming stronger.