How to measure success at school

This week I was very privileged to be invited to attend the SACE Merit Ceremony at Government House for students who were awarded the Governor’s Commendation for the SACE and those students who achieved two or more merits in their 2020 Stage 2 subjects. Cardijn College is delighted to have two students out of 26 students who were awarded the top Year 12 SACE award. We congratulate our Dux of the College Wes Weetra and 2020 Mission Captain and Joseph Cardijn Award winner Gabby Connolly. Cardijn College students in Years 11 and 12 received 22 subject merits across a range of subjects. The subject merit is an additional recognition for students who achieve the highest grade in their subject which is an A+. At Cardijn, 68 Stage 2 subjects received an A+ with over 38% of all Stage 2 grades at an A level. That is an amazing result from the students in 2020. Equally, at our technical and vocational campus, all Year 12 students achieved their SACE and over 80% were able to move into an apprenticeship or job, when the national average is just over 5%. Today, we celebrated the Cardijn College Dux assembly with students who achieved their SACE at the highest level in either a SACE award or ATAR. These students achieved these results during a year like no other under the most difficult circumstances but prevailed and succeeded.

However, if we were to simply look at achievement data or post-school destination data as a measure of success, I think we have a narrow view of what we are about in a Catholic Education at Cardijn College. Yes, success in learning is a very high priority, but what is success. I look at the names of every student who graduated from Cardijn and there is an amazing story behind each one of them. That story is one of tremendous character and persistence, one of courage and commitment, one of determination and compassion, one of presence and simplicity. A story of each student from our Marcellin or Cardijn campus connected to their teachers and grateful to the staff and their family. Students who have had to do it tough in their personal life rising above their daily challenges and being prepared to face their new journey this year as adults in a post-school context. Well, we cannot measure these achievements with simple grades.

So how do we measure success? Schools are often rightly or wrongly judged on a range of criteria such as increasing or declining enrolments, Year 12 results, NAPLAN scores, attendance rates, sporting success, winning competitions other than sports and so on.

I draw strength from our Catholic Education vision of continuing to grow a school culture where students can thrive to be at their very best in mind and heart, where they develop their capacity to be capable learners, competent in life skills with the ability to transfer their knowledge and skills to the problems and challenges they face in their future and importantly to become leaders who are hope-filled with courage and audacity to change the world for the better as God desires. Our measure of success is much more complex than simple statistics and we are much better served to look at our endeavour through the eyes of our students and the impact this Catholic Education has for their future.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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