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After 80 years yet another era is dawning for La Salle College

 

A visitor leaving an exhibition on the life and times of Father Matteo Ricci, at the Shanghai Museum, commented on how much the famous, 16th and 17th century Jesuit missionary and his companions knew, but also how little there was to know.

The current principal of La Salle College in Kowloon, Brother Steve Hogan, says that the challenge facing modern education relates to this very same reality, as the era where all knowledge is contained in text books and students can measure their competence against a benchmark of excellence set by the examiners is over.

“Life and work in the modern world has become increasingly complex,” he told the Sunday Examiner. “The traditional subjects are still important, but outside the context of global, financial, civic and environmental literacy, they do not give a student the essential skills of today; critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration.”

Brother Steve said that any school must ask what it needs to do to face this challenge and, at La Salle College, he says, “We must ask ourselves what an elite, academic institution in south Asia needs to do to maintain the standard of excellence set in the early days of the college by people like the founding principal, Brother Aimar, and his successor, Brother Cassian.”

Brother Steve explained that they set out to create a culture of excellence and rigour, which has been sustained by succeeding generations. “The Lasallian tradition and vision is ‘to inspire and challenge students to achieve excellence in all things’,” he noted, “and this has been sustained throughout our history.”

He pointed out that in today’s world, knowledge is not simply contained in the library, but is on the Internet in all sorts of different forms. It comes in both formal and informal, as well as in the social media and students need to know not just how to access this knowledge, but figure out where it comes from, how it was constructed and why, as well as how to analyse it in terms of accuracy and then, reconstruct it as new knowledge.

“Knowledge today lives in a borderless world,” he continued. “You can’t learn all there is to know. Knowledge is unpacking—every piece of knowledge unpacks more knowledge.”

He added, “Students do not always comprehend this, but it is necessary, and there is a difference between knowing how to access or acquire knowledge, and how to work with it.”

He explains that quality education today must be interpreted in the context of the global education community. “It has been influenced by the United Nations Delores Report,” he explained.

“Nations and education jurisdictions individually and collectively are framing national educational goals that will provide students with success in the new global economy to ensure nations are able to develop what they need to prosper,” he went on.

It is a process whereby core goals must include not only core knowledge, but core competencies and skills. “These are the needs of the world and our New Senior Secondary Curriculum Reform (NSS) aligns with this framework,” the New Zealand brother explained.

“At La Salle College, we have spent a whole year researching how to approach this,” he said. “Firstly we will invest in and resource our teachers to integrate this approach into all teaching and learning, in order to add value to the traditional subjects by engaging eLearning through mobile devices i. e mLearning, only when necessary and only when it enhances the teaching and learning context.”

In a fast developing world it is difficult to know what challenges people will have to face in the workplace and, in order to ready its graduates for the future, La Salle College is aiming to teach them how to use digital technologies wisely,  and how to use digital conventions appropriate to the cultural contexts.

However, Brother Steve notes that this is not a limiting factor in education, as excelling in one field only does not produce a rounded, competent personality, and students are encouraged to excel not only in the classroom, but on the sporting field, in the arts, drama and musical fields, as well as in life skills.

As the life of a student becomes more complex and challenging, the values of religion, culture and the fibre of the person become more, not less important; as more is expected of a student, so stability of character, belief system and understanding of a person’s place and responsibilities in community and society also take on a more critical role.

Brother Steve said that the school will hold a symposium to help parents and other interested parties understand more about mLearning and how to place it in the context of other life skills and character development, and use the 80th anniversary of the college to usher it into a new era.