Reflecting on the value of education

At the outset of the school year, it is an appropriate time for us all to reflect on the golden opportunity a good education is. In having the privilege of witnessing some areas of the globe that have impoverished communities or emerging economies, or as we nightly view areas of our world that suffer dysfunction and crisis, the intense focus on the quality of accessing education is so clear.

In the slums of Mumbai or Johannesburg, in refugee camps, in many of our Pacific neighbours’ emerging economies, the focus on the value of education as the means to a positive future has a priority that is, perhaps, lost on many who enjoy the privileged life we have in our own country.

For many, access to quality education at early learning, primary, secondary and tertiary stages is a given. I hope this accessibility does not diminish the sense of privilege we have in obtaining a great education.

Schools today are so much more focused on learning that differs in format and style to meet the range of needs of students whose abilities, interests and aspirations are so diverse.

What I would ask of parents and carers, as well as students themselves, that they see the year ahead as a golden opportunity to be their best selves. We recognise that in all the students in our schools there are a huge range of abilities, and schools find such wonderful ways of supporting and developing all students.

My wish is that we have families talking up the opportunities this year brings, so each and every student can achieve their personal best – and that all students grab the opportunity their school provides to offer them purposeful, holistic education.

Is it not a timely reminder also to truly value the role educators play in our community?

I look with great envy at cultures, seen for example in Denmark and Singapore, two of the highest-performing educational systems on the world stage, where the status of teachers is deeply celebrated.

While I believe those who work in education are truly valued, are they afforded the respect, support and appreciation they so deeply deserve? I see teaching and support staff in all sectors providing such tireless and selfless commitment to the students in their care. Take the time to appreciate and thank our educators and support staff.

So, perhaps two resolutions for the new school year: re-evaluate what opportunity this year provides and truly be appreciative of those who are engaged in education.  

Finally, in terms of the Catholic education system in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, 2019 is a year with much to look forward to and celebrate. The Catholic education system continues to be in an exciting phase of growth and development.

This year 19,627 students are enrolled in our schools, which now number 59 schools across the Diocese. It is a landmark year at St Mary’s Catholic College, Gateshead and St Joseph’s, Lochinvar as their inaugural HSC class will graduate. Our newest school, the St Laurence Flexible Learning Centre, Broadmeadow, commences this school year.

We commence the school year still reflecting on the depth and breadth of our outstanding HSC results in all of our schools at St Francis Xavier’s, Hamilton, St Paul’s, Booragul, All Saints College, Maitland, St Catherine’s, Singleton, St Joseph’s, Aberdeen and St Clare’s, Taree.

Construction will commence this year for our newest secondary school, Catherine McAuley College, Medowie, as well as a St Nicholas Early Learning Centre on this precinct. We have much to anticipate in this exciting new year.


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Gerard Mowbray

Gerard Mowbray is the Director at the Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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