What is an educated person?

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Last week I read the transcript of a 2016 speech by Professor Emeritus, the Honorable Geoff Gallop AC, entitled What is an educated person? His thoughts were provoking and relevant and hence I began sharing some key points with the Middle and Senior School students at last week’s assembly and with parents here in the newsletter.

From a simplistic perspective, Gallop suggested that most people would consider the context behind his question as being that education exists to prepare students to fill the range of positions that may exist in the future. Hence, an educated person is one that can contribute effectively in a future workforce. However, he also asked, “Can we really talk of a free and fair society if we’re not educated to respect the rights of others and to consider the public good as well as our own interests?” This is indeed a view held firmly through the AISM school values, whereby we strongly believe in educating the ‘whole’ child and preparing them to be a community-minded, contributing global citizen as well as preparing them to take a place at a well-respected university and ultimately in the future workforce.

At AISM, education is and should be an empowering experience for every student. Not only should they be challenged and engaged in their academic studies, they should also be able to explore who they currently are, who they want to become and how they can contribute to improving the lives of others. Indeed, this exploration is a natural predisposition for many teenagers who go through reflective and sometimes challenging stages where they try to transition from their child-like self to an emerging adult. From experience, I recall the journeys of many young people through these years and I know how important it is for a school to hold strong values and to provide students with a safe environment to explore their emerging adult identities.

To return to Gallop’s article; he concluded that a “social contract” exists between an education provider and a student that dictates, “humility over hubris, the public interest over private interests and pragmatism over fundamentalism”. He went on to say that, “to be well educated is to understand the nature and importance of this social contract and be persistent in nurturing and sustaining it….”. More simply put, it is the nurturing of a student’s character that, in the long game, matters more than the a student’s academic awards and accolades, and that it is a key role of a school to incorporate character-building opportunities as a key element of every stage of education. Of course this is not to say that outstanding academic results should not be the goal of all students and focus for every teacher - of course they still are. However, we don’t want that to come at the cost of a student who may have no independence, resilience or self confidence, or one that does not demonstrate empathy and compassion.

Fortunately at AISM, we have an academic, co-curricular and extracurricular education program that prepares students to be both great scholars and great people.  I am proud of the way our students conduct themselves both at school and as ambassadors in a range of activities and experiences off campus. A great example of the testament to our education program is the outstanding conduct and achievement of our World Scholar’s Cup Team who ventured to Johor Bahru over the long weekend. Not only did they challenge themselves to be the best they can be from an academic perspective, they also demonstrated how to conduct themselves in public settings, how to work as a team member or leader, and how to experience failure and success.  

I temper that last comment because once again our wonderful students, as well as being amazing ambassadors, brought back a large haul of awards including; 24 trophies and a huge number of medals. Every student won at least two medals. Outstanding team and individual achievements included:

  • Erja Suhaimy, Alexander Kam and Taiitsu Masunaga winning Best Junior Team of the Competition
  • Ghazi Hakem winning a Top Debater category and
  • Erja Suhaimy winning the Top Junior Scholar award.

Well done to all of these well-educated and humble students and great appreciation and thanks are extended to Mr Broadbent and Mr and Mrs Stagg who cared for the students over the long weekend and who trained them and provided this wonderful experience for them. Congratulations to all of the ‘Scholaroos’ and their accompanying teachers.