Friday 16 October 2015

Community and Scholarship: Two Compelling Themes

This edition of Viewpoint is penned from Asia. On Saturday, Fr Ross, Mr Masters and I left on a ten-day tour of the Riverview confraternity who live in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing. The aim of Riverview in Asia is the same as that of Riverview in Dubbo or Mudgee, where the opportunity to spend time with families who are part of the community is so very important and so very worthwhile. It is also a chance to speak to the many initiatives and priorities that are consonant with the educational program at the College; in effect, a way of keeping our families who live at great distances well informed about the day-to-day events in the school. In addition to the social gatherings, a number of prospective boarding families were interviewed, those who have heard of the profile of the College and are keen to join a community that prides itself on a unique set of Jesuit and Ignatian educational principles. At different points across South East Asia, we were reminded that the first destination of the Jesuit diaspora was in China, where Matteo Ricci and Francis Xavier took the knowledge, the learning and the spirituality of the western world to exotic new frontiers, those that still remain today in historical buildings and records. Many thanks are extended to our host families who provided the best of Ignatian hospitality and shared in the warmth of community.

The HSC Examinations are well underway and I am pleased to report that the feedback from the boys has been positive. Thus far, no ‘trip wires’ have been encountered and the boys are well into the groove of the study, revision, sleep, exercise and dietary routines that will see them perform at optimum levels. A not insignificant number of Year 11 boys are also undertaking their first HSC Examinations as Advanced placements in a range of subjects, including Mathematics, Engineering, Information Processing and Technology and Religion Studies. These boys have shown a propensity for these subjects from an early age and are pursuing their passion and interest with a view to creating future space in their HSC timetable to either undertake advanced placements in undergraduate courses at university, or, to consolidate on other subject combinations in Year 12 in 2016. Some new frontiers are being broached here, particularly as the College is forging some strategic partnerships at university level, the first of which realised a High Distinction result for an HSC student of Philosophy this year, one which will be factored into his application to study Law at Oxford in 2016. And, it is intended that many more will follow.

Last week the College was informed that it has successfully won an AIS NSW STEM project grant to open up wider cross-disciplinary and collaborative opportunities for boys to study Science, Technology, Engineering Science and Mathematics. This will take the form of a shared space that will foster innovation, experimentation, creativity and exploration of design thinking using technologies such as robotics, coding, Arduino starter kits, virtual and augmented reality, video creation and non-digital art and craft. Aligned to the College’s Strategic Directions 2015-2020, this represents the STEM equivalent of the Project Based Learning activities have been undertaken in the Humanities and Social Sciences earlier in the year, by cross-fertilising more established disciplines with new and emerging technologies and the importance of collaborative, peer-assisted and mediated learning. And, the new space and resources are ultimately not only designed to assist in cognition, lateral and analytical thinking, problem solving and evaluation techniques, but also to be engaging and fun.

Prominent among other events of the week was the Senior Swimming Carnival which was held at SOPAC Swimming Centre last Friday. Drawing upon House spirit and leadership, four new Houses entered the history books, as they did for the Athletics Carnival earlier in the year. And while some of the Houses took their place for the first time, the same spirit that has been part of this occasion for the best part of a century was in force in an aquatics centre that pulsed with activity and energy. As usual, there were some commanding performances in the pool from the elite swimmers and some moments of compelling frivolity with the novelty events but it was a day that centred on participation and involvement as the primary theme. Testament to that was the fact that Xavier House came out on top at the end of the day – for Mr Stuart as Head of House, the first time in 18 years!! Sincere thanks are extended to those who contributed so much on the day: To Mr Michael Webb as MIC of Swimming, Ms Venta Protas as Carnival Supervisor, Ms Silvana Mladenovic as IT specialist and Scorekeeper, Mr Wes Dunne as Logistics expert, the inimitable Mr Ben Morris who coordinated all Novelty events, and of course, the boys for the way that they engaged with the day.

Out of the sightline the Past Parents Association (PPA) gathered for their annual luncheon in the magnificent surrounds of Cova Cottage. Coordinated by President of the PPA, Ms Anne Dalton, this function brought together close on 100 past parents whose time with the College was so memorable that they wish to relive it each year. The function was addressed by past parent of five boys, current CEO of Harris Farm, and among many other major responsibilities and honours – Honorary Consul of Bhutan, Ms Catherine Harris, who spoke fondly of her time as a parent and the gains her boys experienced from the education at Riverview. Among many messages, Catherine did not resile from being provocative, taking to heart some key messages that align with the cause of social justice and inclusivity, including the refugee situation across the world, gender equity and domestic violence. It was a day enjoyed by all.

It has been a week bookended by a strong sense of community – past and present, local and international, and, one that has clearly focused on the importance of the academic agenda. We move more quickly and more deeply into the term over the coming fortnight, as Year 9 prepare for their Challenge and as Year 11 formally move into their HSC courses.

Dr Paul Hine