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Student voices take Banyule-Nillumbik Tech School into the future

24 Aug 2017

It just makes sense. If you want to know what focus is needed for a Tech School’s activities, you should probably ask the people who will be most affected by future workforce changes – secondary school students.

The Banyule-Nillumbik Tech School recently convened its Inquiry Panel at Melbourne Polytechnic’s Greensborough Campus to workshop the Inquiry topic for 2018, when the Tech School commences operations. The Inquiry topic is the central theme that focuses the Tech School activities, and for 2018 it will be ‘Community Create Change’.

“This is a really new way of working together, where students, teachers, industry and community co-construct learning design and implementation,” says Marc Blanks, Executive Director, Tech Schools – Banyule-Nillumbik and Whittlesea.

Paige Mihaljevic, from Eltham High School, and Suren Corea, from Parade College, were the student representatives on the Inquiry Panel, and relished the chance to have an active part in selecting the Inquiry focus.

Paige, a member of Eltham High School’s 2017 Student Leadership Team, says the Inquiry focus was deliberately left broad so it would be relevant to a wide range of students.

“It will enable students to find a community project that needs technology to be implemented. ‘Community Create Change’ is broad enough that a problem or challenge can be looked at through a number of different lenses like sustainability, culture, and so on.”

Suren agrees. He says “The focus area has real meaning. ‘Community’ is about the fact that we can all make a difference; ‘Create’ is about our ability to mould our own futures, and ‘Change’ is about the  fact that we have the ability to change our path if we don’t like where it’s heading.”

Both students were impressed with the way their opinions were genuinely sought in the process.

“It was really good,” says Paige. “I thought there was a risk we might be ‘token’ students but we were equal contributors to the discussion and were invited to really present and explain our perspectives.”

Suren, who is active in extracurricular activities such as debating, chess, and the Eddie’s Backpacks program (for foster children), agrees, saying “I felt our input was valued, and I learnt a lot about the process for coming up with ideas and programs. I was kind of awestruck that I was getting this opportunity. Everyone was welcoming, inclusive, and I felt that we were doing something impactful.”

The Tech School programs will be designed to be applicable across secondary school ages and stages, and based on inquiry and applied learning. This means they will have Government, Independent and Catholic school students from different year levels, all working together in the same program.

“We want to develop an ‘innovation mindset’ in students, but also in the community and industry,” says Mr Blanks. “The Tech Schools will certainly develop capacity and capabilities for areas like STEM and digitech, but it’s important to understand that it’s broader than just technology. We’re aiming to create a new place for learning that extends beyond the walls of a traditional school.”

Paige and Suren are both keen to eventually move into careers where they will be able to make a difference. Suren is thinking about being an engineer, but recognises that he is likely to have multiple professions during his lifetime, not a profession for life. Paige is interested in politics and global issues, and wants a profession that will enable her to create positive change.

“I think the focus area of Community Create Change is really relevant for me too – I’m interested in science, engineering and technology, as well as social, environmental and community issues,” she says.

Both Suren and Paige will be part of the Banyule-Nillumbik Tech School’s Student Agency Sub-Committee for the remainder of 2017.

Photo: Paige and Suren in action as part of the Inquiry Panel. Photo credit: Phil Spicer, Melbourne Polytechnic.

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Melbourne Polytechnic operates across seven campuses and five specialist training centres throughout Melbourne. The institute delivers high quality vocational and higher education in industry-standard facilities.