Home' Focus : Focus Magazine Spring 2016 Contents Our educational landscape
FOCUS | SPRING 2016 | 3
During quieter moments, I find myself
thinking deeply about our school, its
community and education more broadly.
My thinking leads me to contemplate a
variety of inter-related topics, such as:
the life of a student; that of a teacher;
and how Scotch Oakburn College fits
into the educational landscape of
On one such occasion I cast my mind back to when I was a
student and what it felt like to learn, the essence of which is not
dissimilar to our current students’ experiences. Each day, I would
take on new knowledge as best I could, try to connect it to pre-
existing knowledge so that it ‘fitted in’ somewhere, all the while
knowing that at some stage in the future I’d be tested on it or have
to put it in to practice. As an adult we are challenged in different
ways, but rarely are we confronted with the task of learning
significant quantities of new information day in, day out.
I actively reflected on this again on two occasions – one when
I took Mr Hammond’s TCE Chemistry class and again when I
assisted in our Year 5 students’ visit to the Penquite Campus
Science laboratories during Science Week. On both occasions
students were presented with a raft of new information or
challenged in their thinking about things that they take for granted.
The thinking involved by the students in making sense of the
ideas and concepts they were presented with was considerable,
and they did that throughout the day, as they do for all the other
days of the week, term and year. Learning, in any of its forms, is
definitely not a passive activity and it is certainly challenging.
Learning, however, is only half the equation, and just as learning
is simultaneously challenging and rewarding, so is teaching.
Everyday our teachers provide new material to stimulate young
minds and draw more thoughts, ideas, understanding and
creativity out of the students in their classes.
The fact that the parents in our community invest in their
child’s/children’s education indicates that we share a common
understanding of just how important the school and the education
it provides is, in setting our young people up for the life ahead of
them. Even so, I often wonder if we appreciate the standard of
education that Scotch Oakburn provides. After I was interviewed
for this role in October 2012, family and friends in Melbourne
asked what my impressions of the College were. My response
was: “If you picked Scotch Oakburn up and put it down anywhere
in Melbourne you’d have a waiting list a mile long”. The past three
plus years have, if anything, strengthened my initial impressions.
The reality is, though, we’re not in Melbourne, we’re in northern
Tasmania and I present to you some data about the environment
‘we’ are in and why we have to be brave, maintain lofty aspirations
and high standards, and set our own course, rather than have it
dictated to us by the masses.
* Tasmania has the second lowest level in Australia of students
enrolling in school beyond Year 10 – 66 per cent;
* When you add in the drop-out rate of students who start TCE
but don’t finish Year 12, we fall to the bottom;
* The rate of unemployment for 25-34 year olds in Launceston
who don’t finish Year 12 is 13 per cent versus 5.8 per cent
* However, that unemployment figure drops to 5 per cent if a
Launcestonian completes any form of post-year 12 education;
* And the rate drops again to 3.1 per cent for those who attain a
* Research across many countries and societies has shown
the direct correlation between the level of education a society
attains and the quality of life its citizens enjoy. While 18.5 per
cent of Tasmanian households include at least one person with a
tertiary degree, the national average is 23.7 per cent;
* Compare that with Scotch Oakburn where, at a minimum, 90
per cent of Year 12 students go on to further education after
they leave us, most going on to attain a University degree.
This data indicates that Scotch Oakburn is at odds with our
environment and the unfortunate apathy towards education by
many within our state. One thing we know from both experience
and research is that students will rise to the level of expectations
set for them and so our teachers set their expectations and
aspirations appropriately high. In doing so, the environment is
created to enable our students to achieve great things, which they
do brilliantly. We need to continue to be unashamedly aspirational
for our students and for their futures and so we set standards that
will allow our students to view their world through confident eyes.
Education is a dynamic environment and if we are to maintain
our position as a leading school, we need to strive to reflect on
the education we provide, constantly improve what we are doing
and not be afraid to innovate. Author Giuseppe di Lampedusa said
it most eloquently in his book, The Leopard: “If we want things to
stay as they are, something’s got to change”.
More broadly, though, there are winds of change in Launceston,
a city which has an opportunity to become Australia’s regional
destination of choice for families where one or both parents work
from here with their business activities located locally, interstate or
internationally. Fundamental to those families is providing a world-
class education and so Scotch Oakburn has to be brave, just as
And for those who recognise the need for change but are too
scared to upset the status quo, I have a question for you. Can you
remember when change and new opportunities became something
to be feared rather than something exciting to be grasped with both
hands? Our students see their world in this way. We need to listen,
observe and learn from them.
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