October 26, 2022

Rector’s eNews – 26 October 2022

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During the week ahead, the D Block will be undergoing the ACER International Benchmarking tests in English, Mathematics and Reasoning. The purpose of this is, partially, to keep us abreast of our place in the international dimension and to ensure that our boys are actually ahead of the world curve in these areas.

We benchmark against other international schools and keep in touch with international trends through HMC (and particularly the Boarding Schools Association or BSA) in the UK and the International Boys’ School Coalition (IBSC) which is essentially focuses on US, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South African schools. One school in the UK which belongs to the IBSC is Harrow. Like Michaelhouse, it is a boys only, all-boarding school. Indeed, it is one of only three such schools left in the UK. We differ marginally in that Harrow is 450 years old and has 800 boys in 12 Houses, but there are so many similarities between us chief amongst which is that we aim at the delivery of a holistic education in which boys are encouraged to innovate and to lead.

Both schools have been exploring the notion of “future-fitting” boys for lives of service, lifelong learning, leadership and fulfilment by focusing on the knowledge, skills and character strengths that will be needed for an uncertain future. Both schools teach “the syllabus” and prepare boys for examinations (internal and university entrance exams) but have increasingly moved to engaging to a greater extent with cognitive literacy (including critical thinking and problem solving), social literacy (including leadership issues, and reflecting on ethics/morals) and digital literacy (including coding, data analysis and interpretation of material). Clubs and societies at both schools augment the academic programme; for example, the Conservation Society at Michaelhouse visits reserves in which boys engage with specific projects to enhance the wellbeing of specific animals, whilst field trips and visits to European destinations may fulfil the same requirements at Harrow.

At both schools there has recently been a focus on a number of the more able engaging with a girls’ school on an overarching topic in an academic symposium and then approaching the topic from different angles: last term the Michaelhouse TARPS conducted online research on Teams with counterparts, St John’s DSG, in Pietermaritzburg and then formulated a view in answering several topics of broad interest in competition with other groups. Harrow boys had the same experience of presenting sometimes radical and out of the box approaches to an audience in a number of presentations.

At both schools, there is a focus on the creation of space which is used as a maker space, set up to enhance learning and innovative thinking with an emphasis on technology. In the Michaelhouse environment, this is our Makan Academic Innovation Hub which will be in operation from next year. In the 3rd quarter in 2023, some of our D Block (Grade 9) group will engage in a pilot study retaining the core subjects in their usual format but studying other areas of interest in a different and inter-related way and linked to the latest UNESCO report of 2021 in which four overriding imperatives for future education were articulated. These were:

  • Considerations regarding living on a planet in peril
  • Challenges that come with digital technology and social media
  • Democratic “backsliding” and increased social polarisation
  • The uncertain future of work

Driving the move to our future-fit educational programme at Michaelhouse is our Senior Academic, Mr Gerry Noel, along with a dozen academic staff. He has spearheaded the work that those who are in our D Block 2023 and have opted to be part of this programme will be doing next year in the 3rd quarter onwards. His view is that “Harrow are doing nothing with their curriculum that we have not thought about or aren’t already doing in some capacity.” We will continue to monitor our position vis-á-vis Harrow and other schools worldwide and will consider every possible way in which we can prepare our boys for the future. Indeed, this is evident in the considerations of the boys in the Snell Society at which this Sunday there will be presentations by B Block boys on the morality of genetic engineering, the similarity in religions, issues related to a free market economy and a view that greatness cannot be predicted (or can it?).

All of this is in concord with the South African IEB’s intentional educational strategy which is to develop students who are:

  • Critical users of information
  • Ethical reasoners
  • Problem solvers
  • Creative and reflective thinkers
  • Lifelong learners
  • Society members respectful of diversity
  • Active citizens who are committed to upholding democratic principles and the wellbeing of all people

The purpose of the above comments stems from my original point of view about Michaelhouse benchmarking against other countries as in the ACER exercise and, further to that, being conscious of alignment with educational processes in similar schools elsewhere.

Read the full Rector’s eNews here


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