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Education Matters- Head of School Blog

Education Matters, Issue #2, January, 2019

Teachers are more important than ever; but not for the reasons we think

Russell Ash, Head of School for Upper York School, the best private school in north Toronto for any parent seeking the best private school in Markham, the best private school in Richmond Hill or simply a private school near me.

Russell Ash, Head of School

There is a growing number of parents in the 21st Century who look at our education system today, consider it broken, and long for a school and classroom that resembles their own historical education and training; a better time as I have heard some parents say.  This system is all too familiar to me because I too grew up in that world where the teacher would stand at the front of the classroom as the sage on the stage and deliver countless facts and nuggets of content and we sat there and listened for hours expected to soak it all in.   The teacher would teach, teach, teach, and  we would inevitably be subjected to a test filled with questions that would call on our memory recall.  Our generation perfected the art of studying 24 hours before the exam memorizing every little piece of information that we would likely forget again 24 hours after the exam.  The greatest skill that was learned here was how master the art of ‘cramming.’  Has this skill really proved useful as adults who live and work in a very different world today?  The sad and simple truth is it didn’t.

 The children in the 21st Century require much more skills and deserve a much better education than what was provided to us. These skills will not only ensure success in secondary education, but serve them well in post-secondary education, and for the world beyond.  I am a father of twin boys who are now 6, and  in the world my boys will inherit it won’t matter how long Sir John A. Macdonald served as Prime Minister, whether they can recite their multiplication facts in a “mad minute,” or whether they understand a parabola.   

 Education is by far the most important investment any parent will make in their entire lives and when I am looking for a school for my children I need to know that the school I’m choosing is preparing my children with skills that will equip them to be lifelong learners. So what are these skills?  These skills or competencies are no different than what you and I require to be successful in our lives and are no different than any person in history has required to be successful.  These skills are : 

  • To read discerningly  We live in an information saturated world that is becoming more so every day, and being able to comprehend and more importantly distinguish fact from fiction is one of the most important skills required for the 21stCentury.
  • To research and retrieve information – Researching looks very different from when our generation went to school and will continue to change as technology changes and it is the responsibility of schools to help students understand and navigate this world properly and appropriately.
  • To think critically – In a previous iteration of education, those of who developed the skill of thinking critically and ask tough questions of our peers, our teachers, and ourselves were considered problems in the classroom.  Today employers around the globe are demanding this be a key skill that potential candidates possess.  
  • To solve complex problems – Problems in our world are becoming more complex and schools need to equip students with the skills to solve complex problems by posing them to students in the context in of learning. 
  • To be resilient – Failure is a part of life and it isn’t about whether a child will fail, it’s about learning, as Lance King puts it, “the art of failing well.”
  • To collaborate – In a shrinking world collaboration is skill that is so important.  My boys will inherit a world where they will work with people all over the world and need the capacity to understand what TRUE collaboration looks like. 
  • To be well – This means many different things to many different people, however teaching wellness and the importance of how develop good habits of mind and body will serve a generation who will be managing a world that is only getting faster, more information saturated, and more complex. 

This is the curriculum of the 21st Century, this is what teachers in every classroom should be teaching everyday and this is why teachers are more important than they have ever been in the history; and this is what we do every day at UYS. 


Education Matters, Issue #1, December, 2018

Parents know best

Over the years, I have had the privilege to speak with many parents interested in finding the educational experience for their son or daughter.   It’s something anyone involved in education should do regularly because there is no better way to understand what parents of the 21st Century are looking for when choosing the best school for their child.

Parents expect, rightly so, that their child’s education is not only about preparing them to enter the world’s best universities, but also that we (educators) are preparing our students with the scaffold of skills required to deal with real world challenges and problems beyond their post-secondary education.   It is this “contextual learning,” that is the most relevant and the most powerful in education because everything learned in the classroom is put within the context of the real world.

At Upper York School, contextual learning means student interest and achievement is advanced by:

  • Ensuring the student is at the centre of the learning process
  • Emphasizing the process of discovery and inquiry, not information delivery
  • Developing “international mindedness”, helping our students see themselves as members of a global community that care for one another
  • Ensuring students are able to connect what they learn in the classroom with their own life experiences and what they will encounter long after they graduate UYS
  • Placing students in different learning environments that incorporate many different forms of life experience, a proven way to help students find the connections between abstract ideas and the real world

I know we are on the right track because our objectives are completely aligned with educational research and the positive feedback we are getting from parents.

Calendar of events at Upper York School, the best private school for anyone in Markham, Richmond Hill or Thornhill looking for a private school near me.