This past week, Holden commenced their historic media statement by stating that it was “with a heavy heart, GMH will be retiring the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand” permanently. As has been reported widely in the media, Holden was a quintessential Australian brand and the thought of it disappearing as our country’s leading motor vehicle manufacturer for many decades, was simply unthinkable. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I was one of the many young people who aspired to one day owning a V8 Holden. So, what happened?

I don’t pretend to know I have any more insight than the next person; however, the demand for Holden vehicles reduced very significantly over the past decade and a half, in particular. I was surprised, and also not surprised, to read that last year more people in Australia bought a Toyota Hilux, for instance, than all Holden brand vehicles combined, by quite some margin. The appetite for the traditional family vehicle, and also by governments and the fleet industry, simply changed to SUVs and smaller, more efficient cars, for many reasons. Holden did not appear to adapt as well to a reconceptualised market as some others did, aside from manufacturing expenses and other complexities involving subsidised marketplaces, and so much more, which I acknowledge. The essence of adapting cannot be ignored. With hybrid and electronic cars now well and truly in play, it will be interesting to see which manufacturers continue to adapt sufficiently into the future, where the need is undeniable.

We have seen this before with Kodak. I have read literature previously that Kodak were the first to develop and pioneer technology for the digital camera with a special research and development team, but key senior executives determined that digital cameras were a fad and would never take off, preferring to remain focused on what they were so good at and which had led to their prior success. They didn’t adapt and it is therefore no coincidence that they are no longer around. I recall also a market-leading manufacturer of woollen blankets quite some decades ago had the same view about duvets/doonas, considering them a fad too and, yes, they no longer exist either. Too many other examples can also be identified. In addition, we are seeing massive changes globally in trends of manufacturing through to retail markets, as we all know, particularly with online activity.

Education systems and schools are not immune, despite their size and essential nature. I have said this before, but when I was in school, there was enormous benefit in being able to remember and recall large amounts of information. Being a doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer, and so forth, all relied heavily on being able to store and retrieve large amounts of precise information for a wide range of applications. Clearly it wasn’t practicable for any professional to run off to the local library to check a fact and return to the office to confirm it with a client! Schools fed into this as their methodology of learning what was most valued.

The problem is, schools are struggling to adapt and break out of this historical methodology (now around two hundred years old) and reconceptualise education for the modern global knowledge economy that is well and truly upon us. The Higher School Certificate, NAPLAN, ICAS, to me, are all examples of this compliance, as is a curriculum that favours this approach. I do see value in these test types as they provide us with a snapshot of students’ knowledge and skills in those fundamental learning areas, but that is only part of the picture, and that is the issue. These tests do not really prepare students ideally to adapt to the skills demanded in a range of positions and careers; for example, working in areas of artificial intelligence, machine integration learning, customer relation management, creative concept design and other technologically focused careers.

In Year 10 Careers, we are looking at a case study example of Dr Jordan Nguyen, who is an excellent example of taking foundational knowledge in engineering and pioneering biomedical engineering ingenuity to invent new technologies for people with disabilities. I encourage parents (and students) to look at his websitehttps://www.drjordannguyen.com/ as just one example of an inspirational modern application of what I am talking about.

Fortunately, schools are beginning to demonstrate significant leadership in spite of the challenges. A new paradigm of learning awaits to meet the needs of a new workforce with emerging demands and skills that has instant access to more information than any person could possibly digest in a dozen lifetimes.  We need to place greater value on intelligent ideas, creative application and critical concepts, not so much nice, neat work and a surface level of factual learning.

A key feature is focusing more on gaining a solid grounding of understanding (not just remembering without understanding) so that information stored can be flexibly applied to solve problems of any nature in the workplace. Further, creating new ideas and processes to increase efficiency and effectiveness is also key, not just doing the same old thing. I am going to take a guess that every employer and self-employed parent (of which we have around 40% at SMGS) and the other 60% of our parents who are employed in a wide variety of positions for bigger and smaller businesses at various levels of leadership and responsibility, each have a need for employees to think laterally, solve problems, show initiative, communicate and collaborate effectively, work independently and interdependently, and be creative … and not just remember singular points of knowledge or routines.

At SMGS, we are working together to build a culture among staff and also to develop in our students a way of thinking that promotes those 21st century attributes actively and intentionally. New programs launched this year, pairing with some developed and evolved from recent years, are aimed at this need for younger learners. Existing traditional routes of learning are also being strengthened.

In addition, our learning methodology is being strengthened and is an active behind-the-scenes priority that will be rolled out over the coming years, which will see ongoing improvements in our teaching and learning. A great deal of research is being utilised, including that undertaken by leading tertiary institutions here and internationally, as well as blending what we know works and what doesn’t from many years of collective professional practice. I am excited that various school leaders and teachers will be profiling these ongoing improvements over time to keep you as parents informed about our journey as a modern educational learning environment where we indeed are adapting to changes in society around us, and not putting our heads in the sand, doing the same old thing that was successful in a past era.

Join us for our Open Day!

SMGS warmly invites all prospective Kindergarten to year 12 Families to our Open Day on Friday 6 March.

Tour the campus and boarding facilities, meet with the principal, teaching staff and students.

Come and get a glimpse of our award-winning education and innovative learning environment in action.

To learn more and to register, head to:
https://www.smgs.nsw.edu.au/programs/2020-open-day/