By Mrs Fiona Wines, Head of Senior School, Deputy Principal at Toorak College
At Toorak College, we are known for developing aspiring young people who go on to thrive in their futures. To do this, we look to develop programs that cater for every individual’s learning needs and nurture in our students the skills they need beyond their school years. Our approach will never change. What does change, however, are the needs, opportunities and pressure points of each generation.
As the world evolves, teachers too must innovate and develop an educational experience that best suits each generations’ needs. Having introduced a number of exciting and innovative programs in the last 2 years catering to the current and future needs of Gen Z-ers, Toorak College have our eye on the future and are in the process of researching and planning the possibilities for the next generation of Senior School students, Generation Alpha.
Generation Alpha will provide the lens through which we can look to for the next decade and beyond. They are those born between 2010 and 2024 and the children of Gen Y. They will be the largest, most culturally diverse and digitally connected generation and what they experience in their early years must be considered as we tailor an educational program for them.
Generation Alpha enter their schooling years with extensive technological skills. They have a heightened sense of consumerism and brand awareness and actively participate in decision making both in online environments and within their family home. They have more of a voice than the generations before them and are eager to use it. So, in planning their educational journey, we need to consider how these students will learn best and what they need to thrive.
Interpersonal skills are key successful futures and how we view these skills over time must be reviewed. Communication and collaboration are specifically taught in our Agile Learning program, however, for Generation Alpha, they must lead them to be able to effectively co-create. Working cooperatively and effectively with others towards a common goal is essential but learning how to create with another person is where we need to go next.
While students in past generations were participants in their educational journey, our current programs are designed to include elements of choice, allowing students to provide significant input in the direction of their unique program. This approach puts us ahead of the game but we are now looking ahead to allow Gen Alpha students ways they can act as co-creators on their educational journey.
Gen Alpha are used to voicing their opinion but we must teach them how to think critically and provide effective feedback so that they can effect change. We must also teach them how to receive feedback and resilience. These are essential skills for all generations.
Looking towards 2030 and beyond, our focus is firmly on how to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist. There will be many more opportunities, in a variety of fields, for young people who are willing to continuously learn, think critically, and give and receive feedback, those who understand that they cannot just be employable but that they must be adaptable and even entrepreneurial in the future.
One of the skills that Gen Alpha students will need to develop is effective leadership. As their generation moves into adulthood, the societal and economic challenges they face may be more uncertain. We know students at Toorak College feel empowered as they have been given a voice from an early age, so we need to teach them how to empower others when in leadership roles within our curriculum and through extra-curricular opportunities.
Over time, what effective leadership looks like will continue to evolve from ‘empowerers’ to ‘enlargers’ and it is our role to ensure students have the opportunity to develop and practice these skills in order to become effective and empathetic leaders.
Taking the needs of each generation into account, I am proud that Toorak College continues to design flexible programs. Generational awareness, combined with our knowledge of the individual strengths of our students, will allow our programs to evolve further.