Home' National Farmers Federation : Annual Review 2008-2009 Contents 132 NATION AL FARMERS' FEDERATION ANNUAL R EVIEW 2008-09
Think Hogwarts, and how much resemblance
that boarding school for witches and wizards
resembles a real-life school of 2009. That's
about the resemblance shared between
today's boarding schools and those attended
by the generations now sending their own
children to school.
In terms of education, learning, and the
expectations of parents and students, the
boarding schools attended by today's
adolescents and children constitute a different
world, says Australian Boarding Staff Association
president Richard Stokes. He points to a major
theme of the 2007 Association of Heads of
Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA)
Conference that emphasises how that difference
must be recognised and embraced: that what
"we were" is light years from what "they are".
It's a crucial message, Mr Stokes says. So many
aspects of boarding have changed, and the
expectations of students and their parents
have also altered.
"It's a different clientele," Mr Stokes says. "First,
the students aren't just country kids any more
- there's a fantastic mix of kids that provides a
great mix for the kids who do board."
He pointed to the school at which he teaches
in Queensland, at which parents based on the
coasts north and south of Brisbane send their
children, in part to separate them from the
"coast culture". At the school, such children mix
with peers from Far North Queensland and
Mt Isa, ensuring all learn more about varied
The moves of Australian state and
Commonwealth governments to attract
international students has also introduced an
increasingly varied, and larger, cultural mix;
many boarding school communities include
students from Asia, particularly, and other
regions of the world.
"Second," Mr Stokes continues, "boarding
schools are having to react, and are reacting, to
how society is changing. Spending three hours
an evening sitting at a desk doing homework
isn't how it works any more."
Information technology has been one aspect
of contemporary society to which boarding
schools have had to remain attuned - but at the
same time, it has been a blessing in its ability to
connect boarding students with their parents.
Mr Stokes says the Internet alone has changed
the way students undergo and complete
homework assignments, and even offers the
opportunity for on-line tutoring, which in an
increasingly specialised world extends the
curriculum that any one school can offer.
The Internet and email also
are essential tools in keeping
family members in constant
contact. As Mr Stokes points
out, a $40 web camera and an
individualised phone package
can enable a student to speak
with and "see" his family as
often as each chooses.
"Even just the mobile phone has made a
world of difference," he adds. "A few years ago,
a school would restrict student phone calls -
partly because one phone would have to serve
60 students. Now, every boarding student has a
phone and it's recognised that students should
be able to 'phone home' - and vice versa - as
often as necessary."
Schools are also changing the way they offer
traditionally learning tools, he says. Innovative
schools allow students to use facilities such as
art and craft centres at night, while rare is the
library that isn't open outside "traditional" hours.
"A lot of schools have also done research into
how students have different learning styles,
and are adapting how they teach and create
homework options around those learning
needs," Mr Stokes says.
Despite the changes, some things remain the
same, however. The decision to send a child to
boarding school - and which school - remains
a difficult one for most families, with parents
conscious their choices may have a major
influence on a child's academic and even
A 2005 AHISA survey of parents at 80 schools
across the country revealed that most are
very satisfied with their choices. But that
comes later, months or even years after an
investigation into candidate schools has
begun, and some time after the child has
started at the selected institution.
A generation or so ago it was rare that a family
living beyond a major metropolitan area
didn't send children to boarding school; any
comparison between city-based boarding
schools and regional "high schools" usually
indicated wide discrepancies in the quality
of education. That's no longer the case,
with public schools increasingly providing
education on a par with that of the "exclusive"
Combine that with the attractive idea of having
Boarding school is a very different proposition
for the students of the 2000s.
ADVERTORIAL -- BOARDING SCHOOLS
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