One of my tasks this year is to complete a futures report: an attempt amid all the currents that flow inside and outside education to identify those that will impact future planning more than others. The purpose isn’t to prepare for next year, or even the year after – that will be reserved for my colleagues who, along with a new Head, will continue to grow and sustain the leadership of the School. The purpose is to look out farther, and identify those questions that will be most important for us to ask and answer if we are to remain in the forefront of education – questions that will unfold over the next ten years, not the next two.
First of all – is it presumptuous or pretentious to suggest that we are at the forefront of education? A couple of quick points in response: in 2012 the College Board, who administers the SAT exams (the most widely used measure for university entrance in the US) and Advanced Placement exams, assessed the performance of all schools in the world who offered AP exams. They identified SMUS as the top AP school in Canada, out of 600, and in the top 60 in the world, out of 18,000. More anecdotally, not too long ago I was at a meeting of other Canadian Heads of School, and one of them had just returned from a recruiting trip for boarders in China. She turned to me before the meeting began and talked about the challenges she faced, and finished off by saying, “I wish our school had the reputation SMUS has in China.” Another example: our staff are sought out to present workshops and sit on planning committees both in Canada and the US on the work that happens here. I will leave it at that, but the list does go on.
For me, this is fascinating work. It began over a year ago, and has involved a good chunk of our staff and others inside the world of education; it has also involved many with considerable expertise in the themes that are shaping the world external to education. Our School is a wonderful cross-section of all the major themes that have surfaced: as an international school with students attending from over 25 countries, we see the impact of both cosmopolitanism and nativism; as a School where over 21% of the students are on financial aid, we see a cross-section of economic attitudes and experiences; as a School that wades into the waters of technological change, we are neither in love nor in hate with technology. Whatever the world sees coming, it will come to SMUS.
Future blog entries will explore some of the themes that are shaping this discussion. Exciting times.