News & Events‎ > ‎

Principal's Newsletter, Week 6, Term 2, 2017

posted Jun 4, 2017, 2:36 AM by Ms. Connors

Principal’s Report

 Congratulations to our Band and Ensemble students and conductors who demonstrated fabulous skill on Tuesday night. Thank you to Mr Richard Brus, Mr Patrick Wong, Dr Anthony Clarke, Mr Richard Sandham and our percussion ensemble leader Holly Conner. The Year 7 Choir and Band were very impressive. Thank you also to the many parents who filled the audience.

Year 8 began their literacy program today with their Ginko walk. While in the nature sanctuary, students made observations to begin the writing process. Under the guidance of author Bernard Cohen, two Year 8 classes completed phase 1 of the program today.

Thank you to our teachers and parents for making Parent Teacher Night so successful for Year 11 students. This year we have separated each year into a different parent teacher night to allow teachers to see more students. In future meetings we will use a timer to ring a bell every 5 minutes. Parents must understand that if they are late or miss a timeslot it is often impossible to fit in at a later time as teachers’ timeslots are all taken. Year 7 parent teacher afternoon is on Wednesday June 14th.

 

Thank you to Ms Keira Brooks for presenting at the Mothers’ Club meeting on Thursday. Ms Brooks explained the changes to the new English syllabuses.

 

On Tuesday 13th June we are holding our SRC Alumni Careers night. Last year’s inaugural event was a huge success and this year students will once again get to meet and mingle with ex-students who are now pursuing a diverse range of careers.

 

Our HSC students began their exams during the week. If you have a child in Year 12 please encourage them to prioritise their sleep as this will ensure more successful examination performances.

 

I have included an item from an ex-student where his work has been published in Honi Soit.

 

Privileged, Monocultural Automatons

 

BAOPU HE unpacks the selective schools debate (Bob He) 15.5.17 ACAR edition of Honi Soit

 

"TOP SCHOOL'S SECRET WEAPON: MIGRANT STUDENTS"

 

"HOW MUCH DOMINATION WILL WE ACCEPT?"

 

Unsettling, alarming and downright conspiratorial: you'd be excused for thinking that these head­ lines come from a desperate, post-apocalyptic future. Such is the state of the current media discourse. These headlines are all drawn from Australian news­ papers from the past few years. The faceless threat they speak of? Selective schools. Hidden beneath the layers of sensationalist outrage is a very real anxiety in Australia regarding selective school education.

 

Who exactly is feeling this fear? One quick look through the Sydney Morning Herald's archives shows that everyone from university academics, to private school mums, to executive directors of Catholic education has published criticisms of selective schools. Even the principal of The King's School, a private all-boys school that charges well over $30,000 per annum, stated that free selective school education should be restricted to families of a certain socio-economic background in a 2012 Sydney Morning herald interview.

 

Curiously lacking in this debate are the voices of current and recently graduated selective school students. In a debate so focused on the apparent lack of 'diversity' in selective schools, it is both surprising and unsettling that the range of views expressed overwhelmingly reflect the same white, upper middle class ethos. When we look at what diversity in Australia has become today, this white-centric de­ bate shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody.

 

An alumni of North Sydney Girls, UTS Academic Dr Christina Ho, criticised the ethnic makeup of selective schools for not reflecting the diversity of Australia's society in a 2016 article in The Conversation. In it she argues that as a consequence of their lack of diversity, selective schools are no longer spaces where students can learn about cross-cultural communication by simply interacting with those of a different background on a daily basis.

 

However, nothing could be further from my own experience in the selective school system, growing up amidst a kaleidoscope of cultures and ethnic backgrounds including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bangladeshi, Sri-Lankan, and Anglo-Saxon. Whilst the majority of us do identify under the monolithic label of ‘Asian’ for the sake of unity, this does not erase our individual cultural heritage any more than calling ourselves ‘Australian' makes us a homogenous unit.

 

Why is it that to many people, a school whose makeup is 80% white and 20% PoC is considered diverse, but a school whose demographics are flipped is seen as dominated by 'ethnics'?

 

Why is it that too many people, a school whose makeup is 80% white and 20% PoC is considered diverse, but a school whose demographics are flipped is seen as dominated by 'ethnics'? It seems the issue with selective schools is not that they lack diversity, but rather that they lack the specific brand of diversity that disgruntled, privileged white parents are seeking. Their diversity, Dr Ho notes, is dichotomous in that it consists of only 'white' and 'not-white', and simultaneously built on the power imbalance that exists between the two.

 

This diversity gives a facade of harmony by appearing to tackle racial issues on the surface, but ultimately leaves the root causes of racism untouched.  It allows the predominant   cultural group to experience all the benefits of multiculturalism (highly desirable in our globalised world) without having to deal with the unglamorous prejudice that unfortunately exists alongside it.

 

There is rarely such sanitised or artificial diversity at selective schools, where white Australians are just another strand in the tapestry of multiculturalism, as opposed to the weaver who intertwines the strands into a pattern of their own liking. Even so, in my discussions with people who went to other selective schools, a common criticism was that there existed a covert but institutionalised prejudice against non-white students when it came to electing people for leadership positions; a sobering reminder for Asian students of the inequalities they will face once they leave the safe confines of high school.

 

The current debate lies in how white Australians no longer exclusively benefit from selective schools, precisely because they have helped migrant children overcome the many barriers society has erected. To further erase the difficulties faced by Asian Australians (which could result in unwanted public sympathy), the media has recently shifted the focus of the debate from race to class and wealth. Turning migrant children into public enemy number one has since become remarkably easy. All of a sudden, issues like the bamboo ceiling are brushed over in favour of the image that selective schools are "bastions of inequality'', and those who attend them aggressive underminers of the public schools system.

 

The fundamental purpose of selective schools is to provide intelligent students with a quality learning environment that does not hold them back, where they can learn regardless of socio-economic or racial background. Statistics on the MySchool's website appear to dispute this. For example, James Ruse recorded an Index of Community Socia-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) value of 1262, a number that vastly outstrips even the most expensive private schools like Ascham (1154). When synthesised with the advent of tutoring, it is tempting to conclude that students at selective schools are only there because their parents could afford to send them to tutoring.

 

While selective school students generally do come from more privileged backgrounds than no mal comprehensive schools, the nature of this advantage has been deeply misconstrued by the media. The ICSEA is a measure of socio-educational advantage, as opposed to socio-economic advantage, and is calculated through taking into account factors like school location, number of Indigenous students, and most importantly, parental levels of education. Though economic and educational advantage often overlaps, the correlation between them becomes complicated in migrant families. The high levels of education that seem to be universal amongst Asian migrants frequently does not translate into an economic advantage due to a myriad of reasons, such as language barriers, workplace discrimination, or their qualifications simply not being recognised in Australia.

 

Whilst I am lucky to come from an economically stable family, it would be disingenuous to say my background is reflective of selective school students as a whole. The majority of my school friends are on Centrelink benefits, and amongst their parents, for every highly educated doctor, accountant and engineer; there is a highly educated factory worker, taxi driver and cleaner. In Asian families belonging to the latter category; it is not uncommon to see parents work extra jobs, cut spending’s elsewhere or even borrow money to send their kids to tutoring in the hopes of landing a place at a selective school and prestigious university course. For Sophie*, a low SES medical student who attended a top selective school, the true extent of her parent's sacrifice is something she may never know.

 

At the time, they didn't tell me because they didn't want me to worry or feel guilty about how much they were spending."

 

“It was only after I graduated from high school that I found out that they had given up on buying a house and starting their own business in order to save enough money to send me to tutoring throughout high school."

 

Seemingly excessive, the initial investment into tutoring for the Selective School's Test (SST) still makes fiscal sense. After all, what is $4000 for a single year of tutoring, compared to $150,000 for 6 years of private education, or $2,000,000 to buy a house in the catchment area of a good local school such as Killara? Furthermore, tutoring in itself does not guarantee a selective school place, something confirmed by my own experience working as a teacher at a major coaching school.

 

The SST comprises of four components: English comprehension, Mathematics,  General Ability and  Creative Writing.  None  of  these  components can be successfully rote learnt as the exams are not built  around a curriculum, but rather are designed  to test  aptitude and intuition  - both  of which  cannot be  taught.  While  tutoring  can  familiarise  children with  the pressures  of working under a time limit, success is ultimately dependant on their ability, and most of my students left a year's worth of tutoring without any significant improvement. Of course all this is not to say that capable, but rather that those who did make it deserved to do so, whether they went tutoring or not.

 

"The current debate lies in how white Australians no longer exclusively benefit from selective schools, precisely because they have helped migrant children overcome the many barriers society has erected."

 

Herein lies the contradiction often used as the foundation of this debate. On the one hand, selective schools 'ruin' local comprehensive schools by 'taking away' all the brightest students (an issue that is definitely worthy of discussion but in another article given its complex nature). On intelligent due to a heavy reliance on external help. This thinking, grounded in racism and the stereotype of Asian students being '"grade chasing automatons", still underscores much of the discussion on selective schools, leading to a situation where their students are disparaged if they do well, and denigrated if they do not.

 

For the past few years, the Australian media has carefully cultivated an alienating image of selective schools as being incompatible with the values of our contemporary society. This image, perpetuated under the guise of "promoting diversity" and "fighting inequality", completely overlooks the complexity of the issue and often scapegoats Asian Australian students as the cause of the problems seen in the educational system as a whole. Given how selective schools have disrupted society's white-centric status quo, the ease with which this image has been perpetuated is unsurprising. The scarcity of Asian perspectives is also unsurprising for the same reason: the debate was never really about us to begin with.

 

Coming Events

 

Week 7B

Monday June 5th                      HSC Assessment

                                                Year 9 Police Talk

                                                Year 10 Drug and Alcohol Seminar

Tuesday June 6th                     HSC Assessment

                                                6.00pm Community of James Ruse Meeting

Wednesday June 7th                UNSW Maths Competition

                                                HSC Assessment

Thursday June 8th                   HSC Assessment

Friday June 9th                                    Year 10 Dairy Excursion

                                                HSC Assessment

 

Week 8A

Monday June 12th                    Public Holiday

Tuesday June 13th                   Year 12 English Extension 1 Oral Assessments this week.

                                                Year 9 and 10 Nyholm Lecture Theatre

                                                Oztag Tournament

                                                5.30pm Alumni Night

                                               

Wednesday June 14th              Regional Cross Country

                                                Year 11 Debate

                                                3.30pm Year 7 Parent Teacher Night

 

Thursday June 14th                  Year 11 Meeting

                                                Year 10 History Debating

                                                Year 10 IPT Assessment

                                                Mothers’ Club Food Day

 

Friday June 16th                      Duke of Edinburgh Hike

                                                Year 11 History Debate

                                                Year 9 Personal Impact High Resolves Leadership program

                                                Progcomp

                                                Year 11 & 12 Vaccinations

 

Have a wonderful week

Megan Connors

Principal

Comments