Schools are being challenged to provide students with a more authentic, relevant and student centred learning opportunity. However, the yard stick for school success in NSW at the moment is achievement on a standarised examination. So can we prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century and achieve success in the HSC?
The answer is ‘YES’. The reason why I know the answer is because I have witnessed it first hand at Parramatta Marist High School. To give some perspective, “it is the oldest Catholic school in the country, but Parramatta Marist High is a model of modern education.” Through the implementation of Project and Problem Based Learning the school has been able to focus on key skills such critical thinking, problem solving, presentation skills and social development and also navigate a crowded curriculum. Students at Parramatta Marist now have an increased confidence to collaborate with other students in solving authentic and rigorous problems.
But that is only part of the story. Parramatta Marist has been consistently in the top 100 schools in NSW over the last seven years, with the 2014 cohort achieving our best results so far.
The remarkable improvement saw the comprehensive low-fee Catholic school jump from 73rd in the state to 42nd on a list of the state’s top-performing HSC schools, outperforming private schools such as The King’s School, Scots College and Trinity Grammar.
Any change is challenging and results are always expected. But many schools will be reassured that such a feat is possible. It requires the confidence of school leadership to manage the change, especially by a dedicated investment in the human capital of teachers. It is imperative that teachers are given the skills to navigate the change and are confident that a focus on skills will always result in academic improvements.