Community News

Polaris | Refocussing the learning agenda

Picture of Adriano Di Prato
Polaris | Refocussing the learning agenda
by Adriano Di Prato - Monday, 1 April 2019, 7:53 AM

"Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” ~ Dame Jane Goodall DBE

Polaris | Refocussing the learning agenda

Recently highly regarded Canadian academic Michael Fullan OC wrote an article for the Term 1 edition of the Australian Educational Leader (AEL) Magazine published by the Australian Council for Educational Leadership (ACEL). In his article, titled “The nuance of academic achievement” Fullan explores the fixation of governments, schooling systems, the media and even parents have with a worldwide competition to increase student scores on tests for academic gain stating, “No matter how clever the proposed change the ultimate emphasis is [just] on academic achievement”. He also explores shifts to human wellbeing and “connectedness” currently growing across our globe as a result of such things like the impact of technology and issues pertaining to the rise of stress and anxiety.

For some time now I believe successive governments, educational bodies and some educators have lost their way and become all to consumed by this “high stakes” approach to learning and schooling. They have made test scores, league tables and high ATARs the panacea of “success” in learning and the measure of a return in their investment.

In his article Fullan poses this question: “What should be the moral imperative for education in modern society?” Fullan’s fundamental point throughout this article is that we (everyone) needs to “stop privileging “student academic achievement” as the only ultimate worthwhile educational goal”. And I agree with him. Instead of trying to marshal everything to increase student achievement and making student achievement the be-all and the end-all, we need to redefine the moral imperative.

Frankly I am over the “losing ground” argument often thrown up by sectors of the media about Australia’s education system. In a world that is going through exponential change to accomplish the necessary shift needed in education we need to refocus and change the content of our goals. Learning needs to become more highly personalised and embrace the fact the world has changed and is still changing, ergo we need to.

Fullan stated, “Being good at schooling and being good at life would be integrated…”. I believe that success should be defined as high performance in the areas of competence (academic achievement), confidence (self-efficacy, independence, self-awareness etc) and character attributes (grit, resilience, ethics and integrity etc) dimensions.

As we approach our 70th anniversary Marcellin College needs to evolve into an inclusive faith learning community that can serve as an example of what is possible in schooling and education. So, for some, the burning question is what will our learning community look like in 2020 and beyond? What is more important to us at Marcellin is ‘what sort of citizens do we want our young men to become?’. Today’s schooling systems need to engage the world and as a consequence future-focused learning needs to change the world.

Our new learning ecosystem, Polaris, is a total educational re-set and high expectations and high support are central tenants to our aspiration in recognising each young man in our care as truly whole human being. We aspire to cultivate in each young man a balance of foundational literacies, character attributes and key capability skills to navigate the world as compassionate Christians and ethical global citizens. So that each young man in our care can one day take their place in society as active contributors, empowering them to be agents of social change and human advancement.

Given the unknowns of tomorrow’s world, it is imperative we support young men at Marcellin to develop a mindset towards learning, to challenge themselves and put in the effort to master new skills, knowledge and character through hard work and commitment to their growth and learning progression. We want them to persevere, to have the confidence to take on the unknown, to take intellectual risks and learn from failures. And the most fundamental thing we know is we, as a dynamic learning community, can describe the kind of young man we want to emerge from our school – a student who is critical and reflective, open to a lifetime of learning and re-learning, who is comfortable with change, has high levels of empathy and a broad global perspective. We need to be adapting and reflecting upon a pedagogy of encounter (Horizons of Hope, 2016) that ensures that we are preparing each young man at Marcellin with the relevant knowledge, skills and necessary wisdom to thrive successfully in next phase of the 21st Century.

I will leave you with this quote from Fullan’s article, “In short, academic learning and connectedness (being good at life) should not be separated… They need to be one and the same phenomenon making for a more complete human being. The unification of the two elements is the new moral imperative”.


Catholic Education Melbourne. (2016). Horizons of Hope. Retrieved 17 March 2019: <>

Fullan, M. (2019). The nuance of academic achievement, Australian Educational Leader (AEL), March, pp. 8-10. Retrieved 17 March 2019,:<[WEB].pdf>

Fullan, M., Quinn, J. & McEachen, J. (2018). Deep learning: Engage the world, change the world. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.