December 3, 2012
Schools as the Community Hub
I have been watching the developing debate about the future of schools as the hub of the community. It follows the line that with the dismantling of traditional community frameworks, e.g. Church and sporting clubs, as a result of our changing lifestyle, one of the few institutions still standing are schools. They are naturally in touch with all families and are therefore well placed to be the focal point for community engagement.
The lifestyle changes being referred to are things like both parents working (which limits involvement in community organisations like children’s sporting clubs), the insular nature of families today, disengagement with religion, and so on.
The contrary point of view is that new technology means that traditional schools are no longer needed because teaching can be done through simulated programs delivered via the web. Legitimacy is given to this view by the fact that many teachers are already using pre-recorded simulated lessons to teach, even in primary school.
As the process of internet delivery is refined, governments will be greatly attracted to this technology due to the cost savings to be obtained by removing face to face teaching. Universities have recognised this trend and are very advanced in this form of education delivery. To illustrate this point, at a conference I attended recently, I spoke with a professor of education at Charles Sturt University. He was delivering a Masters degree in Education Leadership by distance education to prospective principals in Ontario, Canada because it was now a requirement there that to become a school principal you must have a Masters degree. The universities in Canada could not keep up with the demand, so an Australian university was meeting the need. Equally amazing was the fact that the professor was only part-time. His full-time job was as Principal of Lightning Ridge State High School!
It is a cornerstone of Total Education to see our school as a living community. We involve our parents in the school through the weekly parents program, which supports them in their role as parents, by providing parents with teachers’ telephone numbers, and by including them in school life in many other innovative ways. The children thrive in this environment where they see all the parents as benevolent adults in a broader school family.
We also utilise technology where possible, including the use of simulated lessons, which can free up teachers to provide “one on one” time for a gifted or struggling student.
We believe there is a place for both ideas: the community hub and the use of technology.
However, schools play another key role in addition to providing academic knowledge — and that is providing mentors and guidance to children. I cannot see this being supplanted by simulated lessons. In fact, we see this role as the core of our work here at the School of Total Education.
It will be interesting to see if Governments take the same view as the innovations of information technology continue to unfold with breathtaking speed.