The Revd Peter Laurence OAM | Chief Executive Officer, Anglican Schools Commission
William Horman, the headmaster of both Eton and Winchester Colleges in the UK, authored in Latin a book of pithy wise sayings titled Vulgaria, published in 1519. One of the many aphorisms was ‘Mater artium necessitas’, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.
The proverb appeared in the ancient Greek philosopher Plato’s work Republic some 1,800 years earlier, although doubts exist as to whether these words better reflect the translator than Plato himself. Now where have I heard that before?
Necessity is the mother of invention has new life and energy in 2022, as we navigate COVID-19 here in Western Australia. For two years, we’ve adapted to the various strains. Now the Omicron wave is bringing challenges to WA as we open borders and reconnect with the rest of Australia and the world.
Life is about connections. We cannot live disconnected from family and friends, trading partners, work colleagues or our fellow church and school communities for long.
Some of the people significantly impacted by the pandemic have been international students and those who educate, house and care for them. Anglican Schools Commission International has oversight of international students for our schools. When borders closed in March 2020, the pipeline of students dried-up. Across Australia we saw universities lose tens of thousands of students, and dozens language schools and other tertiary colleges close.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Rather than bemoan the loss of students through closed borders, ASC International pivoted to a fully online learning program. For the past two years, dozens of students in countries across the world, from South East Asia and the Middle East to the African subcontinent, have been learning English and completing their Years 7 to 10 studies through remote learning each day. Using the Western Australian curriculum, international students were undertaking subjects such as Mathematics and English, Science and Humanities from their homes overseas.
Learning from home was part of life for school students across Australia and the world in 2020 and 2021, but only for a few weeks here in WA. When we reflected on the learnings of this period, and the two years of international students connecting with us online to complete their studies, we asked the question…”Why can’t we offer an online curriculum to any student in a school to complete part of their ATAR studies (Years 11 and 12) and graduate with a Western Australian Certificate of Education?” And so, ASC Connect was born.
Created by our Director of International Programs Amanda Fritz and Director of Teaching and Learning Penelope Russell, ASC Connect is a program offered to students in all ASC schools and beyond to complete subjects online (either on the timetable grid or out of school hours). This is ideally suited to students who may not find the subject they wish to study in their own school, or that it clashes with another one they wish to choose. Some students may be away from Western Australia for a period of time or may be experiencing ‘school avoidance’ or ‘school refusal’. They may have a physical or mental illness which precludes them from being on campus. ASC Connect connects them to the classroom, curriculum and friends, even when they cannot be in the same physical room.
Without the challenges of the past two years, ASC Connect would not have eventuated. Today, we celebrate an initiative that brings together students from different schools, backgrounds, cultures and countries to learn. Learning to connect in new and imaginative ways is a good and worthwhile outcome from the disconnection of closed borders. Yes, necessity is the mother of invention.