27 November 2017

A VIEW ON NATIONAL TESTING

Recently Mr Tyrrell, Ms Hu and I had the privilege of attending an inspirational seminar sponsored by Catholic Secondary Principals' Association of WA. The speaker was Dr Yong Zhao who currently serves as the Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. A highly entertaining speaker, Dr Zhao challenges us to rethink our attitude to international tests such as PISA and TIMMS where Australia is struggling to compete with countries such as China. In his talk he points out that the Chinese are not proud of their achievement of number 1 in the world - that they are questioning their strategies and whether the style of learning that creates excellent test results in literacy and numeracy has a stifling effect on creativity. The confidence to be creative is suppressed when skills are over-taught. Dr Zhao urged us to ensure our students be given the freedom to be creative, to be globally competent, to develop their passions, to be alert to opportunity, to take risks, to seek uniqueness, to have empathy and to create and care about friends. He stressed the need to develop the entrepreneurial side of ourselves, rather than accept homogenisation.

Dr Zhao quoted from Albert Einstein: "Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". At Scotch, we use testing methods to ensure we identify and meet boys' needs. By adopting the International Baccalaureate programmes, we encourage boys to find areas of learning that develop the attributes as described by Dr Zhao. Over the coming term, boys will be completing their PYP Exhibition, their MYP Personal Project and their DP Extended Essay. Each of these is a unique academic opportunity for a boy to be creative and develop his own unique talent. As the Year 10 boys decide on their Year 11/12 Course there is a great breadth of opportunity of subjects on offer; the subject choice is varied within the Diploma, within the WACE courses and within the Certificate and INSTEP courses. They can consider the benefits of continuing their second language learning, or the excitement of exploring a new area such as Economics, or the benefits of including an Arts area into their studies that will extend their repertoire of skills. They can also build a Service component into their programme so they can demonstrate a breadth of interest in future interviews. Whatever he chooses Dr Zhao would urge him to always be an inquirer, to take a risk and to be open-minded so that he can be truly creative in his thinking about his future.

Dr Zhao spoke at the US Summit for Innovative Education in February 2013. His talk can be viewed on You Tube for those who may be interested.

Jan Skidmore, Director of Teaching and Learning