During the recent school holidays, Head of Science Tara Quenault and Director of Teaching and Learning: Years 7 – 12 Stephanie Walton attended the 2022 International Coalition of Girls’ School Conference in Boston. The duo joined educators, researchers, advocates, authors, and practitioners from around the world at the conference to share ideas about how best to prepare and empower girls to be ethical, globally minded changemakers who lead with courage, competence, and empathy. Tara and Stephanie have shared their experiences from attending the conference.
It was with great anticipation that we travelled to Boston to present at the Global Forum on Girls’ Education in June. Over 120 countries were represented at the conference, and we were honoured to be part of the Melbourne cohort, representing MGGS. This was the first time in over three years that girls’ school educators from around the world could meet in person to discuss the issues facing our students and learn from one another.
As we were both participants in the Global Mentoring Network for Aspiring Leaders over the past 18 months, it was wonderful to meet colleagues from the USA, UK, South Africa, and Australia who had also participated in the program and completed community-based projects. We were all partnered with a fellow participant for the projects, and each individual participant received targeted mentoring across the year to support their learning and development in their careers. The community project topics included sustainability across curriculum areas, supporting diverse learning needs, instructional coaching, the impact of social media on senior students, and engendering kindness in primary school students. A common thread throughout our day together was the centring of student wellbeing, voice, and experience, as well as our shared commitment to best academic practices in our schools. We also presented a separate INSPIRE! workshop to engage in collaborative discussion with peers from other schools on the notion of co-designing curriculum with our students, an emerging idea at MGGS that we are excited to share more about as it develops.
The conference also featured keynote speakers who left us inspired to keep ensuring that all our students had a voice and the courage to use it to advocate for themselves, their communities, and the environment. Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee spoke about her work as a peace activist and women’s rights advocate, urging us to speak for what we believe in, stand up for others, and not turn away from challenging and difficult conversations. Whilst Shabana Basij-Rasikh, the co-founder of the Afghanistan School of Leadership (currently in exile in Rwanda after the Taliban took Kabul in August 2021), spoke of the importance of education for all girls and women throughout the world.
The final keynote of the Conference, by Wellesley College President Paula A. Johnson, highlighted and addressed how historical gender biases in clinical care and medical research have affected both women’s health and medical innovation and raised challenging questions for us as science teachers and, more generally, as educators of female students.
The time in Boston left us excited for the future of teaching, mindful of the challenges facing our students and the world, inspired and full of new ideas, and with a growing global network of incredible fellow educators with whom we can collaborate to ensure that our students have a truly international education at MGGS.