Alternative Education on the Gold Coast
January 30, 2023
The world of education is often a standardised model for most children and young adults. You go, learn, take these lessons into the world, and thrive. Right? However, not every individual has the same needs when it comes to schooling.
The cookie-cutter concepts of schools, colleges and learning facilities — that don’t need to adapt or change with the times — have become stale in today’s society.
Gold Coast boasts incredible higher education options and houses some of the best universities in the APAC region. However, it’s the primary and secondary education sectors where some genuinely stimulating and innovative approaches are being taken — and we have them right in our city.
Many Gold Coast schools, and institutions, have identified the need to provide students with unique needs and circumstances, effective and enjoyable educational experiences. But where are these facilities, who do they cater for, and what sets them apart from their peers?
Situated on the doorstep of the Mount Nathan Reserve as the hinterland begins to take over from suburbia, Silkwood School wins massive points for its bucolic and serene setting. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg. The school’s vision is to: empower young people to be inspired, get connected and make a difference, and the way they achieve this is through complex and thoughtful systems they have in place, including Personal Learning Profiles and Student Learning Cycles. The highlight is a once-a-semester exhibition by students to showcase all they have learnt to as many — or as few — people as they like!
Utilising role modelling and mentoring, Men of Business (MOB) Academy, has established a new template for alternative education pathways for at-risk boys. MOB Academy encompasses mentoring from educators, psychologists, social workers, wellness coaches, fitness trainers, and kitchen staff to give students life skills to inspire well rounded, employable and independent men. This senior secondary school promotes workforce and career focused education, in addition to formalised health and wellness programs, while encouraging the development of key life skills such as literacy, numeracy, health, resilience, commitment and respect. By inspiring students to become passionate and excited about learning, preparing them for life, and encouraging their sense of self, MOB Academy continues to achieve exceptional results for at-risk boys.
MOB Academy located in Southport
Another beautiful, rural setting and another school pushing the boundary of what we perceive as ordinary schooling. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) is a strategy with programs focussing greater attention on these faculties, thereby developing digital literacy whilst preparing the creative thinkers of tomorrow for a fast-changing world. Available for students starting in prep to grade six, it isn’t all robotics and developing computer code: more a sophisticated model allowing youth interested in these fields to excel, supporting their analytical and problem-solving talents. Mudgeeraba is one of the country’s most respected deliverers of this learning model, with several accolades and award-winning teachers to boot.
Albert Einstein is known for saying, look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better — and you can be sure this man knew his stuff. The Village School in Coolangatta is taking this ethos and blending it with organic curiosity, one’s surroundings, and the environment. They strongly believe children need engagement through play and open question asking to share findings with an authentic audience. Mixed-age classes of Prep-Grade 2 and Grade 3 – Grade 6 with strong individual learning enable teachers to recognise personal strengths and gaps in learning. Each day students spend an hour outdoors exploring the scenic local region instilling a strong sense of how a community works and their place within it.
Austrian philosopher and teacher Rudolph Steiner’s concepts on learning and development are still held in high regard — even though they are now well over a century old. His most significant ideas formed around inner development, spiritual research, and the relating practical indications for nearly every field of human enterprise there is. In 2022 this manifests as the Waldorf Excellence Program and can be found at Benowa State High School on the Gold Coast. So, what does this three-year program do differently? Firstly, all students must achieve excellent grades across all subjects. The most significant difference is the provision of education across all main topics is by only one teacher. As well as high standards of behaviour and attendance levels: the belief that education is here to make children fit into society is frowned upon, and the attitude society shapes itself by its people is given as its replacement. Standards are high, and students find themselves with many tools to become intuitive and contributing members of a diverse culture like Australia.
Not all education needs are the same. BUSY Schools recognise this, and across their five campuses in Queensland, significant energy is given to young people who have already disengaged from traditional education or are at risk of doing so. Students close to graduation work within individual plans with intense learning support playing to their interests, abilities, and strengths. The aim is for them to attain their Queensland Certificate of Education (GCE) or Queensland Certificate of Individual Achievement (GCIA). The school’s objective is to see every graduating student going into employment or further training or education.
Where do most boys who cannot function in mainstream school find themselves? It’s a concerning question, but if they end up being the lucky sort, they have every chance of finding themselves at this specialist school at the Gold Coast’s northern extremity of Ormeau. Hinging everything they do on the five universal human values of truth, love, peace, conduct and non-violence: the big drive is to bring about character development and deplete all unnecessary noise in their lives, such as phones, computer games, violence and fear. Meditation is a crucial method facilitated at Toogoolawa School, which has incredible results in calming the students and considerably raising concentration levels.
Inclusive, innovative, and individualised – that’s what Arcadia College in Robina stands by. The college is an independent co-ed secondary school offering an alternative approach to education for young people who have disengaged from mainstream schooling. Their educational programs are tailored to promote continuous engagement and meet individual student learning needs and interests with a variety of strategies. Deeply focused on student wellbeing, Arcadia College offers a range of programs that give their students an enriched learning experience in a safe and supportive environment to guide students toward success both in school and in life.