Please find Ms Macfarlane's full address below:
Good morning alumni, former headmasters and former staff, governors, students and other guests.
I am really honoured to be elected Chair of the Board of Governors of Shawnigan. My daughter, Kate, and son, James, attended the School and I am so grateful to the Shawnigan community for the gifts of conversation, compassion and community they received. Neither of them have landed in gaol. (yet)
It is a special time for Shawnigan as we celebrate 30 years of co-education and continue our commitment to make Shawnigan a model of co-education with a completely level and inclusive playing field for all students and staff – irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socio economics, and ability. So much progress already – but still more to do.
I would like to spend a few minutes to share with you why I believe the Shawnigan magic is what the world needs now and what we, the board and the staff, are doing to ensure that Shawnigan future-proofs its students with the hope and belief that they will go out into the world and make it a better place.
We – the board and the staff – have a heightened sense of urgency that a disrupted world requires we change and adapt now to future proof the Shawnigan students of today and tomorrow. But let me make it very clear – there are many elements of the Shawnigan magic – the heart and soul of the community and the traditions that we will jealously guard. They are the secret ingredients that are, in my view, precious and rare. Rest assured, the Founder’s nose will be rubbed by students for decades to come.
We are living in exciting times as we enter the second phase of the fourth industrial revolution. Demographics, globalisation and technology are creating change that is accelerating at a pace that makes one’s head spin. Incredible progress has occurred – from increasing life spans to declining infant mortality to increasing access to education for girls in developing economies.
Yet – the incredible progress also comes with some mind-blowing challenges – from a climate change crisis that is threatening our planet, to the exponential increase in mental health challenges, to the increase in the gap between rich and poor and the not unconnected, rise of populism and disaffection with democracy. Many of the institutions – governments, the church, hockey coaches, corporations, celebrities once revered and trusted – are today viewed with suspicion. Many people are more likely to put their trust in their Facebook community or Twittersphere. Incredibly dangerous! I believe trust will be the currency of the next century.
What we need is new thinking, social innovation that will complement and augment the innovation in technology, that will harness technology to address the climate crisis, the rising cost of healthcare and the people whose livelihoods are rendered precarious or obsolete by automation. We need to address the balance between the power of technology to continue to make lives better while ensuring we control technology and not the other way round.
At this stage we have many questions and not many clear answers. One of those questions is – how does a school, parents and students prepare students for this brave new world – one in which they will thrive not merely survive.
This is what we at SLS have been thinking about – we have had a subcommittee of the board with representation from the tech sector and from academia. We have reviewed the literature and the leading practices in pedagogy and we have engaged a consultancy to advise.
Here is what we are looking at:
We have determined that on top of excellence in more traditional subjects, thriving in a disrupted world will also take a combination of digital skills and human skills. The schooling of yesteryear was great for an era where career paths were clear and relatively linear. Today careers will change as the needs of the economy change.
I don’t hold a dystopian view that the bots are coming and we humans will be redundant. I think many new jobs will be created – imagine an HR department for bots and algorithms. We will need to hire them, do regular performance reviews, promote those that are doing well and retire those that are not. My favourite – there is an ad in silicon valley for a chatbot personality designer.
While not everyone has to code, everyone will need to be literate in the tools of today and tomorrow. Shawnigan is on it!
If you haven’t already visited the robotics lab where boys and girls create robots and 3D print cool stuff or the observatory where they study the stars or the recording studio where students create and experiment with sound – you should do so.
You can expect to see the School continue to invest in digital skills.
Digital literacy skills are not only about science, technology, engineering and mathematics – philosophy, language, storytelling, critical thinking, ethics are all components. Arguably, Apple’s success was a design success not technology. There is cooler engineering out there but Apple understands people and what they want.
Which leads me to…
As important as digital skills are – human skills are just as important. This is the hard stuff. Shawnigan has a great head start but we need to be even more deliberate.
When change and pace are relentless, we need a solid foundation of wellbeing. The incidence of anxiety disorders has increased at UK universities in the last decade. Managing one’s personal wellbeing in today’s environment needs and takes focus. It is crucial in order to excel in academics and relationships.
We know exercise, mindfulness, being in nature, healthy eating and sleep are crucial ingredients in that wellbeing. Shawnigan has a wealth of nature, beauty and exercise. Some of you got the exercise through Wilberforce. Sleep is a work in progress!
So after one has a personal wellbeing foundation, one then turns to the human skills needed to thrive in this new world.
I am not going to go through them – other than to assure you we are developing experiential learning that will be deliberate in fostering curiosity, critical thinking, agility and resilience.
Resilience is an overused word, but that does not diminish its importance. Resilience is something one can build by dealing with setbacks and learning the coping skills to bounce back. One needs to do this through experiences. You don’t learn this in the classroom. Sports plays an important role in this but so too does co-curricular – like the entrepreneurial programs, Model UN, the EDGE programs, and community service. Shawnigan is going to continue investing in the co-curricular to deliberately develop the human skills needed to thrive.
In closing – at Shawnigan our dream is that the spirit of Shawnigan – conversation, compassion, community and courage – will fuel the Shawnigan student of today and tomorrow.
- Conversation – the world needs listening. It is the basis of innovation and progress. It is the clear antidote to the polarisation we see in politics around the world. And listening really underpins a healthy relationship – hope my husband is listening! Shawnigan has a diverse student body representing over 30 countries and different faiths – what an opportunity to learn the listening and conversation skills to converse across cultures and to take that into the adult world.
- Compassion – capitalism has left significant parts of our society behind. The Shawnigan leader, being skilled in conversation, will develop ideas and policies that will have compassion at its heart.
- Community – Shawnigan is a school with a big heart and an uncommon ability to create a sense of belonging. After a week at Shawnigan, you have an undying loyalty to your House and you know in your soul that Brentwood must be beaten at costs. One little memory illustrates this for me. A few Founder’s Day services ago, the Rev asked the Lake’s boys to stand in chapel. I was touched to see that a number of them were closer to 80 than 20.
- And last – but by no means least – Courage. We all need courage. Students need courage to embark on a journey that is not clearly signposted, but which has a wealth of cool opportunities to seize. Parents need courage to support their children on a journey which bears little resemblance to their own. The staff need courage to innovate pedagogy and support students along the foundational part of this journey. And we all – Shawnigan past and present – need the courage to challenge and think differently to create the world that we all want. And I believe we can and will do it.