From the Principal
August 12 marked International Youth Day 2018, an initiative that celebrates the qualities of young people and recognises the challenges that today’s youth can face. International Youth Day was initiated by the United Nations in 2000 to celebrate the contribution that young people make in our world.
Jan Owen AM, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, and overall winner of the 2012 Financial Review’s Women of Influence Award, recently published an article entitled “A Generation of Hearts + Smarts”. Whilst Owen explores in this piece the many challenges our young people face in relation to their employment prospects, education expenses and barriers to home ownership, she also encourages us to be aware of and inspired by the potential of our teenagers and young adults. Her comments are so compelling I have provided a lengthy excerpt below:
Generation Y and Millennials cop a lot of flak for being lazy and narcissistic – we barely go a week without throwing barbs to a generation of perceived whiners and slackers…It’s easy to group all young people together and suggest a collective tendency to shirk responsibility, an addiction to smartphones and generally self-absorbed attitude.
In the face of these challenges, we need unfettered thinking and ideas which can change the course of the future. Australia’s young people are the engine that will drive this change – and many, already hungry for the chance to create a better world, are contributing to and leading the way forward…I have spent decades working with children and young people. I have never encountered so many with the heads and hearts to make the world a fairer, more equitable or more inclusive place. Which is no doubt why they are increasingly being referred to as Generation Compassion.
There’s so much we can learn from these young people, and the thousands like them across the world. Unleashing the potential they possess is not just an important endeavour, it’s an urgent one.
There are 4.6 million young people in Australia today, and by 2053 this is predicted to rise to 6.3 million. Our young people are our most significant untapped resource – brimming with ideas to drive change, but not in the driver’s seat.
So what will it take to get 6.3 million young people with the optimism, ideas and drive to contribute and rise to the challenges that confront them?
First, a national commitment and investment in Australia’s young people with the purpose of accelerating the equitable intergenerational transfer of power, wealth, knowledge and resources;
Second, rethinking education and schools to become incubators for learning and experimentation to increase the knowledge, enterprise skills, entrepreneurial capability and resilience in Australia’s young people and build a new nationwide learning eco-system.
Third, accelerating connections between young people locally and globally to enable them to find each other, share ideas and build solutions, together. Demonstrated, evaluated and replicated models of collaboration and innovation, with diverse youth people, to redesign the solutions, systems and institutions which shape our communities and nation.
At a recent conference I was listening to a very engaging and esteemed university academic speaking about university life for students and the power and importance of diversity. Whilst I agreed with much of the presentation, there was a comment made that prompted me to ponder further. It was a comment that I have heard many educators and parents use over the years, including me. I am sure you have heard it too.
“School prepares students for the real world.”
While leaving school is a major milestone in a young person’s development, I just don’t agree that our young people at Pulteney are not already engaged, deeply, with the “real world”. Our students are not just preparing for life beyond the school gates, I see them fully immersed in life right now.
You only have to look at their passion for social justice issues such as supporting the Magdalene Centre and participating in the Walk a Mile in My Boots; the fund and awareness raising for our friends in Nepal; the mentoring one ninety and Middle School students provide the Prep and Kurrajong students; those who volunteer to host international exchanges; the productive gardens our junior students grow; the leadership shown in sporting teams; the regular team of students who do the paper recycling and initiate environmental improvements to our school campus and operations. I am incredibly proud of our students’ can-do attitude, their creativity and their problem-solving capacity.
W B Yeats was right when he stated, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Our students’ fires burn bright when they are at school, not just after they have left. And much of this is initiated by them, not teachers or parents. As Jan Owen rightly asserts about our young people:
We need their fresh ideas and new thinking to create a strong future. We can do this by investing in the diversity, ideas and talent of our nation’s young people – back their play and ensure they have the opportunity to build a stronger future.
And we can do this every day, right now.
Owen, J. (2018). A Generations of Hearts + Smarts | FYA. [online] FYA. Available at: https://www.fya.org.au/2018/08/10/a-generations-of-hearts-smarts/ [Accessed 13 Aug. 2018].