A holistic education

At a recent Senior School Assembly, I made the following announcement: ‘In providing an even stronger focus on the academic program, Carey has made the decision to withdraw from APS Sport, eliminate the music and performing arts program, cancel outdoor education, abandon interstate and overseas trips and exchanges, and abolish all clubs and societies.’

The reaction? An initial sprinkling of stunned faces, mixed with a lot of smiles as most were quick to realise that such a statement contradicts the essence of who we are as a school – i.e. we openly promote the importance of a balanced school life that builds a healthy foundation for a life beyond school. Whilst the ‘announcement’ is not part of Carey’s plan for the future, such a proposition provides a chance to pause for reflection.

Firstly, it enables us to express gratitude. The fact that we live in a country where schooling is accessible should not be taken for granted. Many students around the world have no access to school, and only a very privileged few have the sorts of opportunities that abound at Carey. According to UNICEF statistics, there are currently almost 60 million children worldwide, predominantly in West and Central Africa, who don’t have access to primary schooling.

Secondly, it enables us to find perspective. The academic program at Carey will continue to be an essential part of our program, as we know that almost all Carey students will aspire to completing Year 12, and 95% will pursue university study. Complementing this is a co-curricular program providing the immediate feedback that can build resilience. There is the chance to work as part of a team, to put the good of the team ahead of any individual, to be a good winner and loser, solve conflict, and communicate effectively.

Perspective is found in those moments that manifest personal resilience – after a lost match, when selected in the Bs rather than the As, after that line in the play is missed and you are in the spotlight on stage, or when that debate wrap up wasn’t concluded as was hoped. It provides the opportunity to experience what can be quite public failure, to gain a sharpened perspective, and to move on.

Thirdly, it enables us to appreciate a holistic education. We know that the majority of our students, parents, staff, and future employers are looking for that intangible extra beyond just an academic education. It is a vital addition found in the values, skills and confidence that are so prominently developed via a strong co-curricular program that takes our students beyond an academic education.

It can place students in situations where they play sport with, share a stage with, and camp with students from different cultural backgrounds, leading to an understanding of other religions and backgrounds. In these moments there is also an avenue to experience the purpose and achievement brought through physical work, such as climbing that mountain at Wabonga, rowing that final 500 metres at the Head of the River, or running slightly faster or longer during athletics or cross country.

This then instils that inner confidence that must have been experienced by those who performed in the Senior School Play, The Crucible, and found in those students on many past expeditions who successfully worked out the transport for their group to arrive at the designated accommodation on a World Challenge trip.

Therefore, it was no surprise that students smiled at the announcement during the recent Assembly, as they are aware of the benefits of the co-curricular program at Carey. 

Philip Grutzner