Principal's Blog - 20 September 2018

17 Sep 2018

“To thrive in an emerging world where anything mentally routine or predictable, regardless of how cognitively intense, will be achieved by an algorithm, we need original thinkers who can create new value. For that, young people need to develop strong foundational knowledge, so they can understand essential context, and solid fundamental literacies, so they can navigate the world and probe new knowledge. They will also need uniquely human skills, so they can become generous collaborators with an understanding of and expectation for life-long learning.” Heather E. McGowan

Marcellin 2020: A New Story

Most Australian schools rely on an educational model created a century ago. Students experience a static curriculum taught at a standardised pace by one teacher teaching one subject at a time. That worked well for many decades, preparing generations of young Australians for productive citizenship in an industrializing society. But the world has moved on, with massive implications for the future of work.

Let’s start in the present and cast our gaze to the future. A five‐year‐old who started kindergarten this year will be at university in 2031 and will spend most of their working lives in the second half of the 21st century.

While it has always been the case that our schools hold the future within their classrooms, today’s education system needs to set the foundations for these young children to thrive in life and work in 2050 and perhaps through to 2090. Such is the pace of change by advancing technologies and intelligent machines, that it is highly conceivable that these young children will be living in a world radically altered from our own. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already becoming integrated into daily life – think of the smartphone in your pocket. Computers already understand and communicate using human language. In the financial industry, algorithms replace analysts in making investment decisions – and on and on.

In Australia, 40 per cent of jobs have a high probability of being automatable and more than 70 per cent are likely to be substantially affected by automation and AI in the next two decades.1

The world has gone from the Model T to the Tesla, from the typewriter to the touchscreen, from the switchboard to the smartphone. But our secondary schools, in those hallways and classrooms, what has really changed?

The urgency for holistic change is real. Our society has changed. Our school communities need to change, too. The globalised economy creates opportunity, challenge and unpredictability and young people today bring with them the expectation not just to sit and listen, but to participate, to interact, and to shape.

The concept of education being about what happens during the 13 years of compulsory schooling is no longer enough. Marcellin College needs to embrace educational change and become part of the movement to re-imagine schooling in Australia and across the globe. Most people have a hard time imagining what a transformed secondary school would look like. That’s hardly surprising. After all, most of us attended traditional schools. However, just as no two students are the same, no two school communities should be the same. My point is, innovative secondary schools don’t all look the same. What matters is that they serve the shifting needs of the young people in their care in a time of extraordinary change.

As we approach our 70th anniversary Marcellin College needs to evolve into an inclusive faith learning community that can serve as an example of what is possible. So, the burning question is What will our learning community look like in 2020 and beyond? What is more important to me is What sort of citizens do we want our young men to be?

Given the uncertainty it’s imperative we support young men at Marcellin to develop a mindset towards learning, to challenge themselves and put in the effort to master new skills and knowledge through hard work and commitment to their growth. We want them to persevere, to have the confidence to take on the unknown, to take intellectual risks and learn from failures. And the most fundamental thing I know is we, as a dynamic learning community, can describe the kind of young man we want to emerge from our school – a student who is critical and reflective, open to a lifetime of learning and re-learning, who is comfortable with change, has high levels of empathy and a broad global perspective. We need to be adapting and reflecting upon a pedagogy of encounter that ensures that we are equipping young men at Marcellin with the relevant skills, knowledge and necessary wisdom to thrive successfully in the 21st Century.

The next step will be the launch our new Strategic Improvement Plan – Marcellin 2020: A New Story, where we will define the framework for the attainment of a broader set of skills and competencies students will need to thrive during and post-secondary school, over the next three years. The plan gives due consideration to young men developing connections with one another and skills such as critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, citizenship and our responsibility as Saint Marcellin has stated, as good Christians and good citizens, to the broader community.

To complement our new Strategic Improvement Plan the College has developed 12 Guiding Principles that speak to our aspiration as a leading learning community of the future. These principles emphasize:

  • Learning and teaching that seeks to harmonise our Catholic faith, life and culture
  • Young men becoming masters of all fundamental cognitive and metacognitive literacies
  • That all boys need to become partners in their own learning and having access to curriculum design that is personalised
  • The importance of formative feedback and learning progression in assisting young men to grow and thrive
  • A renewed focus on capabilities and habits over academic standards to generate original enterprise thinking for an uncertain world
  • The inherent value of our teachers, and a commit to their formation and ongoing growth
  • An ongoing commit to building partnerships with parents, primary schools, parishes, Old Collegians, business and the wider community
  • A culture of responsible financial management that enables stewardship of the environment and opportunities to develop resources and dynamic spaces that support all learners

All of this requires our entire community to adopt a new mindset. If people in the future will need to reinvent themselves and constantly adapt to change, then education will need to focus even more on learning how to learn as well as what to learn. Schooling should provide young people with the knowledge they need to approach the future with a dynamic and enterprise‐thinking mindset. Futurist Richard Watson2 urges us to teach students about the connected nature of knowledge, “We should be giving them the confidence and skills to question conventional wisdom and solve fluid and connected problems – all of which comes back to teaching people how to think for themselves.”

At Marcellin College we aspire to be a Catholic community that fosters an inclusive culture that enables each young man to access learning designed for explicit growth and achievement. The future of learning at Marcellin should not be an abstract concept. All we must do is look at the faces of the young men in the classroom of today and ask ourselves, what will they need to flourish for their future?

I wish all in our community a safe and rejuvenating term break.

Adriano Di Prato
Acting Principal


1CEDA 2015, Australia’s Future Workforce? Committee for Economic Development of Australia; Hajkowicz, S. et al 2016, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce: megatrends and scenarios for jobs and employment in Australia over the coming 20 years, CSIRO, Brisbane, January.

2Watson, R. 2017, “On education in the 21st Century”, Education: Future Frontiers Occasional Paper Series, NSW Department of Education, June.