In conversation with Mark Scott

Students have the chance to share their aspirations and ideas for learning when they sit down with Education Secretary Mark Scott during Education Week.

Two students in conversation with Mark Scott at a table.
Image: Image:Education Secretary Mark Scott with Oliver Reid and Genoveva Stuparu at Parramatta HQ.

A group of students from across the state has been invited to take part in an “In conversation … “ event with the head of Education NSW.

The students will be asked about how they dealt with learning from home and how that experience could be used to improve learning at school.

It will also be an opportunity to look forward, with students invited to share their visions for their futures and the future of work.

Students will also be able to ask questions about Mark Scott’s vision for education and his own experiences as a student.

The ‘In conversation … ‘ will involve four students with two students zooming into the meeting from regional NSW.

The event will be filmed and streamed statewide here at 9:15am Friday 7 August as part of the final day’s activities for Education Week.

Video: In conversation with Mark Scott

Duration: 47:08
Four students join Mark Scott for a Q&A as part of Education Week celebrations.

Mark Scott 

Welcome to Education Week in Parramatta. 

In recent years, I've held a lunchtime forum with students from across New South Wales. I've asked them a few questions. They've asked me tougher questions, and it's always been a highlight for me for this special week in New South Wales education. This year, of course we're challenged by COVID-19, but we thought it was still a great opportunity to have a conversation. And so I'm delighted to be joined here in Parramatta by two New South Wales students, but also we have two students who are coming in on the Zoom, and we're about to have a conversation. 

We're meeting here on Dharug land, and I wanna pay my respect to traditional owners. And I'd like to ask Joseph to do an Acknowledgement of Country.

Joseph Wilson

Hello, I'm Joseph Wilson, and I would like to welcome you all to the land of the Nari-Nari and Wiradjuri people of which I stand on today. I would also like to acknowledge the Gajinbarra of the Bundjalung Nation and the Dharug land of which one is standing on during this interview. I'd also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, and recognise the continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging in our local communities today and tomorrow, and always.

Mark Scott

So Joseph is one of the four students I'll be talking with today, and he's joining us from Hay War Memorial High School in south-western New South Wales. Joseph is in Year 10 and is part of three schools, his local high school, Dubbo School of Distance Education and the Aurora college, our virtual selective high school for remote students. And I also understand he's a keen guitarist. 

And also Zooming in to join us today, far up on the north coast at Kingscliff High School is the SRC president Jadzia Wolff. Jadzia is in Year 11 and has grown up right beside the beach in northern New South Wales. And she's passionate about the environment and she's also very interested in leadership and the role young people can play in shaping our world, including in ways of education. 

And here in Parramatta, two students, Genoveva and Oliver. Genoveva is a Year 11 student from Rooty Hill High School. She is an accomplished violinist. She's very proud of her Romanian background and plans to study physiotherapy. Whereas Oliver is involved with his school's media and communication team, and he was lucky enough to be one of 21 students from around Australia, who attended a youth and media conference at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra. 

And I'm Mark Scott and I'm Secretary of the Department of Education here in New South Wales. And these students will be asking me some tough and tricky questions, but I'm planning to ask them some questions as well. And because I'm speaking at the moment, I can ask the first question. So why don't we do that? 

So, you know, back in the day, I was an English teacher and even now, I'm on the board and I'm chair of the board of the Sydney Writers' Festival. So I'm very interested in reading. I'm very interested in books. And so here's my question. If you could be a character from any book you've read, who would it be and why would you choose that character? Genoveva, let's start with you.

Genoveva Stuparu 

So one of my favourite books that I've read was probably Treasure Hunters by James Patterson. And in that book, you find yourself going through history lessons and going through these different countries and exploring them. And these kids, they have to find their parents because one's been kidnapped, and the other has been lost at sea. And there's one character, his name is Bick Kidd. And he's the character who's optimistic and believes that they can get anywhere they can when they put their mind to it.

Mark Scott

That's yours. Oliver, what are your thoughts?

Oliver Reid

So I've read the Series of Unfortunate Events.

Mark Scott

Lemony Snicket.

Oliver Reid

Yep. And I really admire Klaus' intelligence, as he uses it in many different situations to help people and they, all the characters, they just go through many different...

Mark Scott

Lots of adventures.

Oliver Reid

Yeah.

Mark Scott

Lots of adventures, lots of hardship. Fantastic series of books. 

Joseph, favourite character from a book, any character that you'd particularly want to be?

Joseph Wilson

What comes to mind first to me is the character Grover from Percy Jackson. That's a book series. He is a very empathetic person. He's very nice and kind, and he's a very logical thinker as well. He's something to look up to and he's able to go through all the issues and stakes in those novels and make it through.

Mark Scott

He's your man. Jadzia, what about you?

Jadzia Wolff

-So one of my favourite book series is The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. And I would love to be Alex, who is one of the main characters in the book and she was around my, around the age I was when I read the book. So she's young, she's really powerful, she's magical and she's heroic. So I really resonated with all of those things about her. And I also loved the idea of there being another magical world that some people can travel between.

Mark Scott

For me, that's the easy bit out of the way, 'cause I've asked my question, but Jadzia, I think you've got a question you wanna fire back at me? And I'll have a go at answering, but if it's a really tough question, I'm gonna get Oliver to answer it for me on my behalf. So be on standby, Oliver, if it's a really tricky one.

Jadzia Wolff

So it's a little bit long, but I wanted to just talk about how several schools are starting to embrace the power of student voice and teacher-student partnerships. And I was wondering what you would have to say about, why do you think this hasn't always been as relevant and as present in schools? What can be done to convince those who aren't convinced themselves of the value and the importance of this concept? And so with that, what are some things that you would like to see coming from students that would be positive steps forward?

Mark Scott

I think it's a really good question and something we've been wrestling with a bit here. I think a traditional view of education was that students are there to learn. Teachers will teach. Do as you're told, get the homework done. That would have been an old fashioned view. I think what we now understand from learning, I think, and best practice is that students who are really engaged and interested in learning, they're the ones who are really going to learn and progress well. 

And so how do you keep students engaged? And I think the key to that is to have a respectful, interactive engagement with students and to respect student voice or respect the perspectives that students are bringing to their learning and to provide opportunities and forums for students' voices to be heard in a meaningful way. 

So this week we've launched a student voices hub, which is a place online where we've created for students' views. So students' views can be heard. I know the Minister is working through plans to create a student advisory group so she can hear from the voice of students. But I think in a way, to encourage student voice is to also encourage the engagement around critical thinking. It's one thing to have a point of view. It's one thing to have a commentary. It's another thing to actually encourage student voice so students can critically engage with the complexities of ideas that we are involved in, and to encourage the cultivation of those skills. 

So, I think there's a lot in it and we are looking for forums and mechanisms to ensure that student voices can be heard and to ask students what good teaching looks like. And to ask students, what is the best arrangement that we can have so they can learn best? And to respect the voice and the experience of students as well. 

Let me come back and ask you guys a question. What's the class that you have that you really would never wanna miss? And what is it about this lesson that engages you so much? Why is this class so good? Oliver, what do you reckon?

Oliver Reid

So I really enjoy being in the class Commerce. The lessons are very well coordinated and it's basically a class teaching me how to manage my future. And I learn a lot about investments, property and shares in the business sort of community. My teacher is a very good teacher and she teaches me well.

Mark Scott

Did you know about any of this stuff? You know, share markets, property, investment. Were you interested in these things before you started doing the class? Or have you kind of come to understand it all because of the class?

Oliver Reid

Yeah, I've come to understand it because of the class.

Mark Scott

Yeah, and who's your teacher?

Oliver Reid

Miss Kumar.

Mark Scott

Miss Kumar. Shout out to Miss Kumar. All things going well in commerce, in Oliver's class. Genoveva, what are your thoughts? What's the favourite class and why?

Genoveva Stuparu

I think I first need to put a disclaimer out. I love all my teachers.

Mark Scott

All the teachers. No favourites.

Genoveva Stuparu

I love all my teachers.

Mark Scott

No favourites, Genoveva, but just name one out of all your wonderful teachers.

Genoveva Stuparu

I'll leave music aside because that's obviously a passion of mine.

Mark Scott

She plays the violin.

Genoveva Stuparu

But I would probably definitely say CAFS. Community and Family Studies with Mrs Andrews.

Mark Scott

Tell me about that, 'cause I'm not sure lots of people do that class. What do you do in Community and Family Studies?

Genoveva Stuparu

Well, what I've enjoyed about it is that we've learnt from different backgrounds that everyone comes from. So knowing that not everyone has the same living circumstances and learning how fortunate we are in the community of what we might have already. So I've enjoyed learning.

Mark Scott

To understand about other people and develop kind of empathy and insight into lives outside of your own? That's very interesting. 

Now Joseph, three different kinds of schools for you. Tell us a little bit about those different experiences and what's the class that really grabs you when you're... that engage you across those three different learning settings that you're involved in.

Joseph Wilson

So with the three different learning settings, by learning through my home school here, I learn a lot of teamwork skills and a lot of personal related skills, through those subjects. And through my two distance schools, I learn how to be independent with all my classes and manage my own workload and flow. But my favourite class would have to be Commerce, which I'm doing through Dubbo Distance as well, just because of how important it actually is overall and how interesting everything is.

Mark Scott

Joseph, it strikes me that, you know, we've had lots of students move to learning from home in recent months through COVID-19. That wouldn't have been as big a jump for you because you've been using virtual technology to plug into classes. So what do you think the secret is to being successful when in a sense you've gotta be, you know, learning on your own, perhaps with a screen rather than in a class surrounded by other students?

Joseph Wilson

My biggest thing that I did to help me was remove all distractions. Because...

Mark Scott

Because they're distracting, right?

Joseph Wilson

I'm sorry?

Mark Scott

Because they're distracting. Remove distractions 'cause they're distracting.

Joseph Wilson

Just having almost nothing around me helps me be independent and actually manage myself better.

Mark Scott

And how did you come to understand that you needed to do that?

Joseph Wilson

By not doing as well in my work as I did before.

Mark Scott

And is that hard to put your phone away?

Joseph Wilson

Not for me, it wasn't, but for other kids it might be. 

Mark Scott 

And is it easier now that you've done it for while?

Joseph Wilson

Definitely, yeah. I'm able to focus my vision a bit more.

Mark Scott

And Jadzia, what about you? What's the best example of good teaching that you see in your weekly classes?

Jadzia Wolff

So the way I see education is that it's really important to be bringing the outside world into the classroom and to be having those critical discussions about things that are happening so that we can create informed perspectives. And the class that I really experience that in is Geography with Miss Corby. Because we cover a few controversial topics. And so I get to have those discussions with my class members that maybe don't agree with me on certain things. So I think that's really important that those things happen in the classroom.

Mark Scott

Terrific. Lot of great answers and wonderful to shout out to some of the wonderful teachers we have in our schools as well. Genoveva, time for question from you.

Genoveva Stuparu

Yes, so my first question for you, Mr Scott, is how has education changed since you were a student and what developments do you see from what you've experienced?

Mark Scott

Well, I'm very old, as you can all see. And look, there's some things I look back on from schooling, that are just unimaginable now. Back when I was a kid at school, students used to get hit with a cane. I had a teacher at a school I went to who had a collection of canes in the cupboard, in the back of his classroom. And if in fact, you hadn't done your homework, you were talking in class or you were causing trouble, you would get sent outside and get hit. I think it is unbelievable now that in all sorts of schools in New South Wales, government schools, independent schools, Catholic schools, we used to beat children. And that was as recently as 40 years ago. I find that just astonishing when you think of it. 

But the other thing that I think has really changed in a wonderful way, is how technology even like the technology we've used today has opened up the world. When I was at school, you would go to the school library, there would be textbooks there, there'd be encyclopaedias there that'd be out of date. The ability for you to access information and be able to share information the way that we do now with laptops and tablets and, you know, virtual reality, be able to explore the world from home or the classroom, I think that's just extraordinarily different and exciting and creates great opportunities. And, and even in what we've heard from Joseph today, I think what that does is allows us to get great teaching into classrooms all over the state, allows us to bring students in from wherever they are to engage with other students, like the way that they're doing now. And I think that's terrific. And I think even the kinds of subjects that you can cover now, there's a range subjects for a full range of interests that were certainly not a factor when I was at school. 

And I think in a way, the other great thing that's very different about school now is that when I went to school, only about three students in 10 would have stayed to do the HSC. The vast majority of kids left before doing the HSC. Now it's about eight students in 10, and I think that's a great thing. And the ability that you can go and do the HSC and get a job, or do vocational education, go to TAFE, go to university maybe, or maybe a combination of all three. I think there are that many more options open to people. And it means that, you know, it used to be in the day that, if you were on that university pathway, that was set very early and there was no way of getting into it. And we used to kind of put labels on kids earlier. And I don't think we do that as much now and I think that's a good thing. 

So more opportunities for more people, and it's a bigger world and we don't beat children anymore. I think that's a good thing too. Now, Joseph, we go to you. You've got a connected question, I think.

Joseph Wilson

So, Mr Scott, do you believe that our education system has become too focused on university entrance and neglected vocational studies, because we have massive skill shortages? And as Secretary, what role do you think schools should play in providing vocational skills and training and raising the profile of these essential careers?

Mark Scott

Yeah. Let me just build a little bit on what I said earlier. I think for a long time what's been on offer in schools has been too narrow, and a lot of it's been driven by a focus around university entrance. So you do an HSC, you also get an ATAR. What's an ATAR really? An ATAR is just a tool that's used by universities to help select their students. But I think, many people, including vice-chancellors, have said to me, the ATAR is far too important and the HSC is not important enough. And so, yeah, I think we need to do better at having a full range of vocational courses on offer for students, particularly in the senior years of secondary school. And these could be vocational courses of really for a full range of ability. I think there'd be some students who want to go to university and do very advanced courses, who would also benefit from doing the right kind of vocational education courses. So we need to get better courses on offer, I think, and support the teachers in our schools who are offering vocational education, but also to do more in partnership with organisations like TAFE. I'd like there to be more opportunities for students to be able to do TAFE courses and even apprenticeships while they're in school. Now, some students can do that now, but not as many as I think we would like there to be. So I think there are really good opportunities on that.

Jadzia Wolff

Can I just ask, Mark.

Mark Scott

Yeah.

Jadzia Wolff

With everything that you're saying about how we should be encouraging schools who are introducing vocational studies and stuff like that to suit a more wider range of students, do you see that happening a lot in your work? Do you think that most of the schools are heading in that direction, or it needs a little bit more encouragement from people like you?

Mark Scott

Well, I think it's got really hot about now. So I don't think we've seen it yet. We've announced two schools, one at Seven Hills in Sydney and the other one up on the north coast where we're making investment in the physical facilities of those schools so they can offer more vocational ed classes. And that's an experiment, a prototype that we're doing. And if that works well, I think we'll do more of that around the state. 

We've talked with TAFE about being able to create some courses that students should be able to do for the HSC vocational ed courses, that they'd be able to do no matter where they are in the state. And so that's also an opportunity that we are looking at. 

But I think the curriculum review, which you'll have heard of, there's a review that's been taking place of the curriculum in New South Wales. The curriculum review also puts a focus on the range of vocational education courses that are on offer. So it's almost like, Jadzia, that at this point, everyone is in heated agreement we need to be better. NESA is, the department is, federal government is, state government is, we all agree we need to do a better job around vocational education. And it's an area that I expect to see a lot of change and improvement in the next couple of years. 

So I've got a question now. And Joseph, it kind of takes up the point that I was asking you earlier. Let's talk about the pandemic and this most unusual schooling year that everyone's experiencing. We've all had a burst of learning from home. How has the pandemic and learning from home changed the way you feel about school and learning and what happened at your school? And is there anything that you'd like, that we had to do during the pandemic that you think would be valuable if we kept on doing? Or we could adopt as a consequence of the learning we've had this year? Jadzia, we'll go to you first on this.

Jadzia Wolff

Okay. So I, what I took from my pandemic learning experience is two major things, and I might run along a bit, so I'll just start with the one. And that was that I was made aware of not just my school, but the whole country's ability to rapidly adapt to this desperate new situation that a lot of us had never experienced before. And so after it hit, and after a couple of weeks, I was sort of processing it all. And I was thinking if we're able to make such big changes under desperate circumstances, imagine the great, much-needed change that we can make happen when we're not under so much pressure. So for me, it was a bit of an eye opener. I was like, yeah, we are capable of rapidly adapting and changing our education. And so what I would love to see is Australia proving that it doesn't take a pandemic to make some major changes in our education.

Mark Scott

Yeah. What's the second point?

Jadzia Wolff

The second point was that I felt it really highlighted that for a lot of students, there is a major lack of motivation and interest in learning. Because we found that when there wasn't teachers or parents there physically telling people to do the work, they weren't doing it and they were falling behind. And that comes back to a lack of interest and a lack of motivation. And from there, my school personally, we had students on a panel with teachers on a staff development day. And it was our job to get as much information as we could from the student body about what was working and what wasn't working. And we had this really insightful goal, that was how are we gonna keep students engaged at school? What changes can we make even post-pandemic to make sure that students are engaged in their learning? And so that was a really powerful thing that I got to be a part of.

Mark Scott

And what a great powerful example of student voice at your school, on the back of that.

Jadzia Wolff

Yeah. Yeah. It was really, really good. It was a game changer in the student voice department.

Mark Scott

Yeah, wonderful. Great story. Oliver, what about you? What were your thoughts coming out of the pandemic?

Oliver Reid

So I really liked the freeness with the lessons, but I discovered that students really had to set their own schedule. And go through a process of what teachers have to face in their daily lives. The communication online wasn't the best because you didn't have the teacher by your side to help you get through the work, but I would also like to implement from my school more online technology and base that learning around the idea of setting students up to be independent.

Mark Scott

Yeah. So many interesting experiences on this and I want to go to you in a minute, Joseph, but I think one of the things we learned from the department frankly, was that, you know, we've spent millions and millions, a massive amount of money rolling out technology into schools and fast broadband into schools. Often in many communities, the school will be where the broadband is fast as anywhere, and good wifi setups in many places. But of course this put pressure back on the setups that students had at home. And so if in fact the, in the home there wasn't fast broadband and there wasn't access to devices, and that was a real challenge for us. And so we had to find more devices, find dongles to connect people to wifi. Free up the computers at school often to support students at home. But, and I think that's been a challenge for us to just think through. It's not just thinking through how you set up a school, but how you support students in learning from home, that was a big issue. 

And I think Joseph, tell us a bit more about your experience and how you found it and things you think we can learn from the remote learning experience that everyone's had.

Joseph Wilson

With the remote learning experience, I found that it's not just the education aspect, but it's also the social and a personal aspect of learning that is important. I found this when I was jumping from a home school education to distance from other schools. There's a lot less motivation because of the teachers not being there, and actually not having anybody to talk to causes issues as well. The way teachers communicate with students is incredibly important in my opinion, with how the education is distributed. So just communicating via email or messages is not the same as being physically in the room with them. And a lot less work would get done in my opinion.

Mark Scott

Yeah. Genoveva, your thoughts?

Genoveva Stuparu

I think that during the time with the whole pandemic, I feel like it was a moment of realising how fortunate we are to be able to be going to school in person and having those face to face lessons. Because when we were faced to go online, like you guys said as well, like teachers and students, it was hard. Like students didn't always have that access to devices, but we were fortunate enough that Miss Cawsey, our school principal. So she made sure that all students had devices lended to them from the school and that everyone did have the internet access. So the kids who didn't have access at home with internet, they were able to have these Optus SIMs given so that they would all have the equal opportunity of being able to complete all tasks and continue on learning. 

And then knowing that all the students, teachers and everyone in the community came together in community to make sure that everyone was supported, felt like they had someone to talk to. Because it wasn't just the schools that were affected. It was also families outside of school, because you saw so many jobs were lost. The whole economic side went down and that would have been another added pressure outside. So knowing that the teachers daily checked in on us and had calls with us to make sure that they checked up on us to make sure that we were okay and that we had someone to talk to, just really was encouraging to see during a whole pandemic that we all had support.

Mark Scott

Yeah. I'll just conclude this bit by saying that firstly, I don't think we've ever valued our teachers more. And not just in the department, students valuing the work that their teachers do in helping them focus and keep learning and being on that learning journey. But I think parents really value teachers too. And the other thing I think we really kind of appreciated, we value, and I think you were saying this, Genoveva, I think it's school itself. I think at times it's easy to think, "Oh, if only there were more school holidays, do I really have to go to school today?" All that, but once we couldn't go to school, I think a lot of people thought, "Actually, I miss that. I miss that routine. I miss my classes. I miss my teachers. I miss my friends." And when we opened the gates and asked everyone to come back in again, it was interesting. Everyone kind of rushed back and there was a sense that we were happy to be back. 

Now, of course COVID-19's still about. And you know, here in the department, I have meetings every morning and most afternoons to talk about our COVID-19 planning and to look at those parts of the state where there are cases of COVID-19 and occasionally have to close schools for a day or so to clean them and to do contact chasing. 

Now Oliver, I've been prattling on here 'cause I know you'll have a tough question to ask me. Fire away.

Oliver Reid

Having worked as the Managing Director of the ABC and now leading the education of young people in New South Wales, what is your advice to young people as they experience accessing news on social media platforms?

Mark Scott

Wow. That's a really good question, Oliver. It's funny, going back to the last question, I reckon one of the things I was thinking about COVID-19, in a way is how lucky we are that it happened in 2020, not in the year 2000. Because if it happened in the year 2000 phones hadn't been invented, iPads hadn't been invented. There was no fast broadband. There was no video streaming. It would have been really difficult to do learning from home 20 years ago. And even 10 years ago, it would have been tough. But so it was amazing that the technology was here now and to a degree that technology is a gift, but you've got to be careful in using the gift. And I think this goes to your question. 

I think you've got to be very careful in reading and engaging with media online. 'cause you need to ask the question, well, who is writing that news and what agenda do they have in writing it? One of the interesting things, when I grew up there were just a couple of newspapers, a couple of radio stations, a couple of television stations, everyone read and watched and listened to the same thing. Whereas now that's not the case at all. If your Facebook feed, Oliver is different to your Facebook feed, Genoveva, because it changes according to the stories that you read. And the idea is to give you the news that you are interested in, rather than news that is necessarily accurate or necessarily fair or necessarily tells the full story. 

So I think what you've gotta do, is you've got to get outside that bubble a bit, get outside your Facebook feed or your Instagram feed or a Snapchat feed or whatever else, wherever else you're getting information on. You probably have social media accounts - I don't even know what the technology is, that's the way it is. But to make sure you're trying to experience media from outside that bubble, and to read widely and to think widely and to recognise on a whole lot of issues, there will be different people with different views and different perspectives and to understand those different views and those different perspectives, that's really very important. 

So, I think it's important not just to read the news, but to understand how that news comes together. I think that's an important part of what we need to do now. And I think we need to be training people to understand what is fake news, what is accurate and how you work out what accurate news is, and to make sure you're exposing yourself to a broad range of inputs, I think, is really quite important. Jadzia, another question from you?

Jadzia Wolff

Yeah. So my second question is, as a leader in education and working with many others like yourself, I was wondering, how do you think my generation and our generation's leaders will have to be different to, say, your generation and generations before?

Mark Scott

That's a really tough question. Do you have an answer to that, Oliver? I'm a bit frightened of that question, myself, Jadzia. That's a good one. 

Look, I think it's tough being a leader now. I think it's, I've met lots of political leaders, prime ministers, and premiers and CEOs over the years. I think it's tougher and tougher to be a leader. I think the media environment is tough. I think the social media environment is tough. I think there seems to be more division in the community, but what I think you really need to do, I quite like the idea that you need to be a servant leader in a way. You need to be pretty clear that in your leadership, you are serving the people that you lead. And if in fact you think your leadership is going to be all about telling people what to do and they will automatically follow it, I just don't think that's the case anymore. 

I think what you actually have to do as a leader is to spend a lot of your time listening to people so you understand them well. And then a lot of time talking and explaining yourself about what you're doing and why you're doing it, and why it's important and why you've come to that point of view. And so I think in a way, more listening to the people you want to lead, more talking with the people you want to lead to be almost more respectful in the partnership engagement that you have with them. I think that's the hallmark to great leaders. And I think if you look around the world and you think of great leaders, I mean, I think Jacinda Ardern is one of the most interesting leaders.

Jadzia Wolff

Jacinda Ardern is my absolute idol.

Mark Scott

My daughter has a poster of Jacinda Ardern up on her wall. I mean, Jacinda Ardern is a really interesting leader, I think. But what is it? I mean, why do you admire her so much? What is it...

Jadzia Wolff

Well, for me, there's that aspect of here's this young female, who's just absolutely killing it. And I think she just destroys the stereotype that politicians are, that they lie and that you can't trust them. And I feel like her country just loves her and she's authentic.

Mark Scott

Yeah, I'd agree. I think she just seems like she's the real thing, right?. And I think she feels like she understands the New Zealand public, they understand her. She, in a sense, puts herself out there. Some of those videos she puts out with her and the family and just, she just seems very kind of warm and very real. 

Now I'm gonna take that leadership question and fire questions or answer. Joseph, I'll go to you now. How do you think leadership in the future needs to be different from leadership we've had up until now?

Joseph Wilson

Maybe a lot less dominance in a lot of aspects, like a lot more freedom around with the people, rather than one person making the decisions, that I believe that there should be a lot more aspects of community and involvement in those decisions and aspects.

Mark Scott

Yeah. Genoveva, you've got a thought on changing styles of leadership for the future?

Genoveva Stuparu

I think that leaders are focused on making promises and that that's how they believe they may get votes. But I feel like making promises means that you will have to do them. You have to just keep your word and stay true to your word. But instead, if you say that you would try your best to make a change, knowing that you at least tried is actually better than saying something and not sticking to it. It just shows the type of person you are and the type of leader you are.

Mark Scott

Yeah. Oliver, what about you?

Oliver Reid

I think that leadership needs to be a little bit more community-based, instead of when you're elected just for the fame. In saying that, the community needs to have as much say as the leader.

Mark Scott

Absolutely, you need to have those community members deciding they're going to follow the leader. And so they need to feel listened to and respected and engaged with as well. Jadzia, further thoughts on leadership apart from the fact that more leaders like Jacinda Ardern.

Jadzia Wolff

One of the things that I would have to say is that our generations of leaders have to not be afraid to challenge the ways of previous leaders, because I think we've grown up with a totally different social context. For example, the LGBTQIA+ community matters. And then recently the Black Lives Matter. We've grown up with these things and they shaped, they've shaped us and they also shaped the society that we know and that we're bringing forward. So I think in that way, we're gonna have a more diverse way of thinking just because of all these things that we've experienced and that we've grown up with. So we definitely need to challenge the ways that things have been happening.

Mark Scott

Yeah, I mean, one of the interesting things, I think just reflecting on that. It used to be the model, certainly in Australia, that in order to be the leader, you had to be an old white man, right? And all around the world, old white men. It's very interesting. You see the analysis done of leaders who've done a great job under COVID-19 globally, disproportionately women leaders have done a fantastic job and you see from Jacinda Ardern, you do not need to be a man in your 60s or your 70s to be a leader. And so more opportunities to tap into all the talent that's available. I think experience is useful in leadership, but it's not the only thing that's useful. And so to be able to tap into the expertise more broadly in the community, and to have more young voices, I think, is clearly a great opportunity. And we learn from that too. 

Time for just a few more questions and then you're gonna have to go back to learn and I'm gonna have to go back and do whatever it is I do through the rest of the day. But Joseph, another question from you?

Joseph Wilson

With the COVID pandemic in mind, and the lessons we have learned from it, how do you believe that technology in schools will innovate classrooms in the way schools are able to teach efficiently?

Mark Scott

Yeah, we've been talking about this a lot. I mean, as I said earlier, we spent a lot of money getting technology into schools. Technology in schools is not new, even though if you want to know how old I was, I am, when I was at school, there was one computer. And only the really, really good maths kids were allowed to touch the computer. The rest of us, stand clear. So clearly more technologies around, but the critical question isn't the technology that's around. The critical question is can you use the technology well? And I think that's been the great achievement of COVID-19. The fact that so quickly, so many of our schools had to really think through, well, how are we going to use these tools to help students keep learning? And they did a great job. 

There's a video we put up online about Freshwater Senior Campus, where they did an extraordinary job. And they say that in the time of COVID-19, they made five or 10 years improvement around how they've engaged with the technology and how they pushed the use of technology. And, you know, I think even other examples we had of schools that as you said, happened at Rooty Hill, getting the technology out in the hands of students so that they could engage with it. 

I think two other things that I'm really interested about. And it's to do a bit with the size of the state. Now, we're on the north coast here, we're out in Hay in the south west. It's a vast state. And this is a challenge for us to get great teachers in front of our classes at times, and also to get professional development for teachers. So the teachers keep learning. There's no doubt that technology will help us do that as well. We found there was an enormous use of the material we put up online for teachers to use of the department. So no matter where you were, you could tap into great expertise. We've talked about Eddie Woo a bit in the department over the years, our famous maths teacher Eddie Woo. The way you can use technology to get Eddie Woo into the classes all across New South Wales. 

So great teachers, great professional development and great learning tools. And I think it goes back to the conversation we had earlier. I think our best teachers are thinking, what can the technology do and how can students use technology at home but what best happens in a classroom setting, with teachers and students learning together. So how do we think that through best? And we're doing more research on that in the department. 

Genoveva, question for you.

Genoveva Stuparu

Yes. So I was wondering, what is your vision for education in New South Wales? And what legacy would you like to leave?

Mark Scott 

Well, that's a big question. Even though we have a lot of people, this is one of the largest education systems in the world. We have 800,000 students in our classes today, and there are very few systems in the world that are as big as that, but it's a lot when you add it together, but it really it's individual students. And we have a few commitments to those students. 

One is that everyone is improving every year, that every student is learning. Every student is making progress and we want to see every student, every teacher, every leader, every school, improving every year. We're committed to improvement and what we really want to do for you guys, but for everyone, is to turn you into independent learners. So create an environment in school where you can be learning for the rest of your lives. Because I think our understanding about how the world is changing so quickly with technology, with globalisation, with climate change, with disruptions like COVID-19, you're going to need to be learning for the rest of your life. And some of you are going to have jobs. The technology hasn't been invented yet, the job hasn't been invented yet. So you're gonna need to learn to master new technology, new skills and new workplaces. So for you to be independent learners, learners for the rest of your life, that's what we want for every student in New South Wales. 

But the other line we talk about a lot is we want every student in our schools to be known, valued and cared for. You know, life is complex. We've all experienced that. Being a child, being an adolescent, these are complex and demanding times in a complex and demanding society. And we want school to be a safe place. We want school to be an affirming place, where where you go to school, they know you, they care for you. You're part of something important. And it's a place where you can always turn. And so we want to create independent, strong learners for lifelong learning. We want to create an environment of security, and of trust and of care. So you can grow up strong and independent. That's what we want. And we want that for every student in the state. 

So look, one final big question from me and then back to life. So if there's one thing that you could change, of all these things we've been talking about today and anything else. If there's one thing you could change in the world, what would that be? That's a tough question. Oliver, we're going to go to you first.

Oliver Reid

It would have to be human greed in how everyone needs to respect each other a little bit more.

Mark Scott

Thanks for that, Oliver. Jadzia, what are your thoughts? What are the things you want to most see changed?

Jadzia Wolff

Well, this is a pretty big call, but the first thing that comes to my head is our addiction and dependency on money. I feel like there are so many inequities and injustices that wouldn't have to happen if we weren't so focused on money. And if it wasn't such a, the driver of our decisions.

Mark Scott

Interesting, Jadzia. And I think there are a lot of people and certainly people my age, who would say there were times where everyone tried to convince you that money was terribly important and money would buy you happiness. But the things that most give you happiness, aren't things that you can actually buy. It's a bit of a cliche, but I think it's true. It's a good answer. Are you gonna have a political career, Jadzia? Are you thinking about this?

Jadzia Wolff

Definitely, I'm thinking about that.

Mark Scott

We need to keep this video tape. Keep this video tape. This could be valuable down the track when you're Australia's Jacinda Ardern. Genoveva, what about you?

Genoveva Stuparu

I would say probably the different perceptions in society. The thing is that when you express yourself and when you just show who you really are, you're still judged no matter what. So I feel like people don't express themselves then because they feel that judgement will really impact them. Just be you. Doesn't matter if people don't like it. Just be you because judgment's still around. I would probably change that.

Mark Scott

Comfortable in who you are. Thanks for that. 

Joseph.

Joseph Wilson

I believe that the world needs to be more empathetic more than it actually is already. I think that we need to just generally have a lot of respect for each other, just like Oliver said. And it's incredibly important to a society like ours to actually understand each other properly.

Mark Scott

Thanks for that. I think four great answers. Four great answers our political leaders could listen and learn from. Great insights. Thanks for that. 

Just about out of time. 

Oliver, I'm gonna give you the last question. 'cause you're seated right there. And I know you've got one more for me and then we'll have to go.

Oliver Reid

If you could give advice to a high-school-aged Mr Scott, what would you give him?

Mark Scott

Well look, I, you know... Let's be blunt about a few... Be careful about those wardrobe choices, 'cause those photographs can come back and haunt you. I warn you now Instagram generation. Jadzia, political career. Consider your Instagram choices now, okay? 

I think also more seriously, I just do think, one of the things you learn over the years is that tomorrow is another day. And at times things seem absolutely overwhelming, but the sun rises tomorrow, Tough circumstances kind of change. Things improve, things break for you a bit more. And it's important not to just get too stirred up and overwhelmed in that moment, but to try and see that bigger picture and try and see that bigger perspective. 

The other thing, I think a little bit, and I think a bit this as a career, I sometimes think about my career. I planned none of it. You know? You might think you know what your career is going to be. My career is nothing like... I've had opportunities that I would have never kind of thought or planned or contemplated. But what you've gotta do is just be great where you are right now. So if you're at school, just be the best person you could be at school. And then if you go to university or you go and do some other study, just be the best person you can be there and be the best person you can be at the workplace. And be, I think, the characters that you've talked about. Wanting to be someone who is empathetic and listens well and gives trust and is deserving of trust and then see what opportunities open up for you. But don't sell yourself short by over-planning, but to just take advantage of every moment and every day, 'cause you get to be old really quickly. That's the greatest shock of all. The grey haired guy in the mirror. Where did he come from? All of a sudden there it is. So take advantage of the moment where you are now. 

That's about the end of our conversation. All the time we've got today. 

I want to thank the crew here at Parramatta, who's put all this together and hooked us all up around the state. 

I want to thank everyone online for showing us their fabulous Zoom abilities that they cultivated effectively during COVID-19. 

So thanks to Joseph and thanks to Jadzia. And thanks for the folks who are there helping you at your end. And thanks to Genoveva whose birthday it is today. Birthday,! Happy birthday to Genoveva.

Genoveva Stuparu

Thank you.

Mark Scott

And thanks to you. 

And thanks to you, Oliver, as well for being part of it. 

And thanks to everyone for listening and taking part in this conversation today as part of Education Week 2020.

[End of transcript.]

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