Educating Girls

20 July 2023

Reflecting on the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools Conference

Reflecting on the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools Conference

Dame Jenny Shipley, politician, mentor, and advisor, opened the Asia Pacific Summit on Girls Education (June 2023) urging us to future proof our young women and asked, 'How will our girls be nurtured and succeed in this new age?'. Shipley highlighted how the paradigm of education has evolved rapidly over the last twenty years, and noted that our girls need to refine critical thinking analysis and application as they use both human and artificial intelligence in their lives. That while we still require a female lens for AI, our girls need to be openminded but understand that truth is not a given. It was a vivid reminder of the relevance of girls’ schools in this modern era; our bespoke learning, leadership, and wellbeing programs at Ruyton, and our culture that raises girls to believe in themselves.

At the conference we heard from inspiring keynote speakers including educator entrepreneur Nicole Dyson; 'it’s not what you know it’s what you can do with what you know.' It is anticipated that 63% of all jobs will be enterprise skill intensive by 2030. Now more than ever, we require engaged learners rather than compliant learners. This involves the development of an adaptive mindset; critical thinkers who can communicate, problem solve and collaborate. The development of project management skills rather than group work, alongside an independent energetic spirit and readiness to learn.
Schools shared their programs and research throughout the conference. Cathryn Furey, Deputy Principal/Director of Learning, and I presented Anxiety to Empowerment, Ruyton research that led to the development of our academic buoyancy program for Years 7-9. It is designed to support girls to successfully deal with the everyday academic stresses of school life; academic setback, aversity and challenge in everyday learning. Academic buoyancy registers more and lingers longer for girls, having been identified as one of the few psycho-educational attributes not favouring girls. For that reason, we identified it as an important focus for Ruyton with the vision to improve both our girls’ approaches to challenging learning situations and their ownership of learning.

The International Coalition of Girls’ Schools conference commenced with a keynote from Dr Carol Gilligan, author, educator, expert on girls’ development. In 2022, Gilligan wrote 'girls don’t need to find their voices; they have their voices. Listen to them.' Discussing her girl-centred research spanning the last three decades, she reminded us of the frank and fearless voices of girls and the importance of listening to them; and noticing what happens when we replace judgements with curiosity. She highlighted how great girls’ schools look to girl-centred research to guide our focus and implement the positive impact of this work.

This central theme of research carried on throughout the conference, notably with the sharing of research from the Global Action Research Collaborative on Girls’ Education. Ruyton staff members presented their research; Ellen Savill, Junior School Learning Leader, on debunking perfectionism and exploring definitions of success with Year 4 girls and Dr Katherine Putnam, Director of Research and Data Analytics, on using new tools to calm test anxiety and build learning confidence with senior students. Congratulations to both Ellen and Katherine who are now recognised as 2023 Fellows of the Global Action Research Collaborative.

The conference closed with an inspirational address from Nadira Hira, writer, cultural commentator and recognised millennial expert. She reminded us to be good stewards for each other. Young women in particular need support not static or competition; they need a chain of support from men and women in their lives and the realisation that the pursuit of perfection is neither realistic nor healthy.

As I have taken the time to reflect on these rich learning experiences it is Jenny Shipley’s advice to young women that I remember most and take forward with me as we nurture our girls in this new age, supporting them to succeed; 'keep very focused on understanding that you are entitled to be at the table. Inclusion doesn’t mean you have to be the same as everyone else. Be rich in your understanding of who you are and speak up…be brave…don’t let others define who you are. You are both yourself and the cloaks that you wear.'

Linda Douglas

Governing Director of the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools
Ruyton Girls’ School

March 2023