There has been much comment in the media about the outdated “industrial era” model of education that sees students’ learning shaped entirely by their age: a one-size fits all approach where all students progress at the same time and at the same pace.
At All Saints’ College (ASC), we support the notion of a “stage not age” approach to young people’s learning; where students aren’t forced ahead at an inappropriate pace, nor held back from progressing their learning merely because of their age but, rather, are able to exercise choice according to their own skills, talents, passions and so on (what Prof. Yong Zhao refers to as each child’s “jagged profile” of talents).
A personalisable approach is critical for academic reasons, obviously, but also for wellbeing reasons – and we think here of how young people can become disengaged by a lock-step education system, struggling with their sense of self and self-worth.
To that end, we have been personalising education as best we can at ASC, within existing constraints. In the Junior School, there is much flexibility to differentiate students’ learning with many programs and examples that have been developed in recent times. In the Senior School, there has been some great timetabling work happening behind the scenes to facilitate, as much as possible, the needs of students who require extension, acceleration or a different kind of program.
Facilitating this is challenging as, for some students, progressing to an appropriate Mathematics class (for example) that is, say, two years ahead of their age, the timetable may have seen them miss out on other subject offerings and opportunities.
For the past few years, therefore, we have been looking at how we can build on what we are already doing in the Senior School and really aim to progress this commitment.
We are pleased to report that we are looking to implement the next stage in this important evolution in 2020, starting with our Year 9 and 10 cohort: giving those students greater agency, flexibility and choice.
What we are looking at doing isn’t radical or extreme, but it is significant: it does aim to address what is really a moral imperative that sees schools recognising and responding to the importance of the student’s ability to progress at a pace that is relevant and appropriate to him / her, to the importance of empowering our young people, giving them choice, voice and agency.
What will this look like?
The revised structure essentially combines grids for students in Years 9 to 12 in order to allow students at all levels to access relevant courses (eg higher Mathematics or certificated courses) in a manner that is more fluid than we have been able to offer, and that ensures students don’t have to miss part of their program in order to accommodate their tailored course.
There will be no change to the amount of time provided for Mathematics, English, Humanities and Science, although greater flexibility will be provided for students who require a personalised program.
Along with students’ core and elective options, students will continue to engage in Health and Physical Education, Life Skills, Religion and Philosophy, and Futures (ie Careers) classes.
For the majority of students, these changes will have little impact besides increased opportunities in electives. On that, there will be a greater number of courses available from which they can select, and more time spent in these areas of choice. Currently, students choose six electives over Years 9 and 10, in six periods per week; in the new model students will choose eight semesterised electives, across eight periods per week. The new model provides the opportunity for students to be more specialised (by choosing a number of elective units in one area of interest) or access a greater breadth of options.
Students will also be able to apply for advanced placement in Year 10, 11 and 12 courses in both VET and ATAR pathways.
We believe that this approach will increase student agency and provide the necessary structure for students to move forward at appropriate stages dictated by their needs, not the year in which they were born.