Various perspectives provoked a degree of reflection from students. ‘If it were not for the foundational knowledge of Australian Politics at St Michael’s in Year 11, I don’t think I would be as eager to grow as a learner as I am now, and conscious of where I stand within the grander scheme of things which will take me far beyond my time at school,’ says Maisie. ‘The forum allowed me to understand and consider that the current choices in education that students are given between Years 7-10 are limited.’
‘I believe that actively engaging in the study of politics is beneficial for navigating life, as so much of our livelihood is determined by the political state of affairs,’ adds Ibby. ‘I felt encouraged at the forum to immerse myself further into Australian Politics, rather than focusing largely on the global sphere.’
St Michael’s Humanities Teacher and Secretary of SEV, Ms Roseanne Tiziani, was also in attendance and emphasised the significance of ongoing engagement from school staff. ‘It is really important that passionate politics teachers remain innovative in their practice and foster student voice,’ says Ms Tiziani. ‘Students are often ‘put off’ by the theory required to engage with Australian Politics, however, it is really also about using this theory as a lens to discuss and critique contemporary events as they play out in real time.’
One of the focal ideas from the forum was the potential for cross-school partnerships to allow students from multiple schools in the one local area to come together and undertake the VCE Australian Politics course. ‘The fact that student numbers are often not high enough, particularly in government schools, for the subject to run is a frequently cited issue as to why the subject is in decline and fails to be offered year after year in many schools,’ notes Ms Tiziani. ‘This solution would enhance equity of access which is thoroughly important.’
However, awareness of politics as a subject remains crucial to its success in the long term. ‘The lack of base knowledge of politics, in comparison to what you are required to learn in Maths, Science and English in the junior years, results in senior students being hesitant or reluctant to consider the subject choice of Australian Politics, as it’s disconnected from their prior knowledge,’ says Maisie. ‘Thus, awareness and advertisement of the subject are necessary to observe higher levels of student interest.’
Politics students at St Michael’s have recently formed a Political Interest Group to facilitate the discussion of politics at the School. ‘Students run the entire group, from selecting our topics of discussion every fortnight to mediating the discussion in a respectful way,’ explains Ms Tiziani. ‘It is a mix of current politics students who are looking for an outlet to discuss the issues we don’t necessarily get to linger on in class, as well as students who are thinking about studying politics at the VCE level and would like to share their insights.’
We’re extremely proud of our students’ efforts in the forum and commend them for their continuing efforts in advocating for politics in education.