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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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The Leading 21st Century Schools: engage with Asia program

Des Gorman
Des works an educational consultant who has had extensive senior management experience in Victoria and New South Wales. Des has been a primary school principal and senior education officer in Victoria as well as a regional director in the New England region of New South Wales.

In his inspiring address to the 2013 Asia Education Foundation (AEF) conference, Yong Zhao stressed the urgent need for schools and school systems to create globally competent, entrepreneurial, creative students.

This need is one of the main drivers for the AEF's Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia (L21CS) Program. L21CS is Australia's foremost professional learning program, supporting school leaders to build Asia capabilities and drive the change to support Asia literacy across the school community, as well as fostering a collegiate support network with school leaders and educators.

L21CS has been designed as a blended model of professional learning, with self-paced online modules, a webinar series and face-to-face professional learning through the AEF Annual Conferences 2013 and 2014. Since its inception in 2008, the L21CS program has involved over 900 school leaders, from a diverse range of schools representing every jurisdiction across Australia.

Learners in the 2013–14 program are working through three phases of activity. Phase one, conducted August–September 2013, was about tuning in to Australia's engagement with Asia and participants were asked to consider their school's moral imperative to do things differently.

Implementing the program

During phase two, October 2013 – April 2014, participants and their schools have engaged more deeply in planning, resourcing and implementing a new way of doing things. These school-based improvement projects have focused on areas such as Asian languages, studies of Asia, developing strategic alliances and partnerships, or building staff knowledge, skills and capacities. The following three examples show some of the work being done.

St Mary's Senior High School in Sydney has been on an Asia literacy journey over the past eight years, with extensive work undertaken by the school's staff and community. The L21CS program has provided additional support. The program has been a strong motivating factor behind the introduction of a Year 11 mentor project aimed at broadening students' perspectives and understanding of the Asian region. School principal Kris Beazley notes that the involvement of the senior executive team in the 2013–14 L21CS program provided access to a wide range of quality planning tools that have been utilised to great effect within the school, as well as to powerful learning through the online modules. Currently the tools are being used to undertake a curriculum audit, or mapping exercise, which will be followed by research to identify additional learning resources.

Willetton Primary School in Perth is just starting out on its journey towards Asia literacy. L21CS is now informing the work of Moira Long, the school's English as an Additional Language teacher. She has been the key driver behind a very successful exercise that has enthused the teachers to develop their knowledge and skills in this area. The school has used the introduction of the Australian Curriculum, in particular the cross-curriculum priority of Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia, to encourage teachers to infuse the studies of Asia naturally and seamlessly into their planning and teaching.

At Christian Brothers' College in Adelaide, principal Noel Mifsud and deputy principal Shaun Clarke participated in the 2013–14 Leading 21st Century Schools' program. Prior to their involvement the school had already made a moral commitment in this area, with an Asia literacy strategy adopted from Reception (Foundation) to Year 12. The school has a well-supported Advisory Group consisting of staff and students as well as representatives of external agencies and organisations. This group has played a major role in progressing the school's vision. Noel and Shaun's involvement in L21CS has allowed the school to build on this strong base, as members of the Advisory Group go through the program's online modules. The program has also helped the school establish a strong network of like-minded educators.

The next phase

In May–June this year, L21CS enters phase three. In keeping with the spirit of collaborative learning, participants will give presentations at the AEF 2014 Annual conference in Sydney, sharing the outcomes of their Asia literacy projects with colleagues from all sectors and jurisdictions. This showcasing provides an opportunity to connect schools that could continue to learn from each other beyond the program, and gives school leaders the chance to explore the common drivers of change, the obstacles encountered, and the successes and the challenges they have experienced.


Subject Headings

Professional development
Curriculum planning
Language and languages