A Look at Girls’ Education by Anne O’Loughlin

///A Look at Girls’ Education by Anne O’Loughlin

Interestingly enough, the most recent World Economic Forum Gender Report (2009), rates countries on how well they divide their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations Australia is rated as 20th best!

When considering approaches to education, whether in the single-sex or co-educational context, the challenge for every teacher is to find the best way to connect with the student. `Engagement’ of students is the current mantra that we hear from the experts in curriculum delivery. Pedagogy and practice need to be alive and attuned to the variety of ways of enthusing our students to want to learn, to participate in this learning and, most importantly, to go beyond what is the `norm’ in order to push the boundaries and grow. This growth is twofold: growth of the mind in its fullest sense and growth in the experience of life. In short, it is an education that encourages our students to be, in the spirit of the motto of the Olympic movement, Citius, Altius, Fortius, “Faster, Higher, Stronger” in every aspect of who they are and what they learn. For it is in this journey that they become “fully human and fully alive”.

In order to unearth this potential in our students it is essential that we recognise the way they learn. In terms of gender there are no differences in what both girls and boys are able to learn, but there are substantial differences in how they learn. For those of us in girls’ schools it is essential that we continue to grow in our understanding of how girls learn. Over the last few decades, advances in studies on the science of the brain have assisted us in more clearly understanding that there are some significant differences in the way that girls’ and boys’ brains develop and operate. Girls tend to process their emotions more quickly than boys. The language areas of the brain are the first to develop in girls, while in boys the visual-spatial areas are the ones that develop first – so, it is not surprising that girls tend to naturally excel in languages and boys in mathematics and the sciences.

Building confidence and resilience is a crucial aspect of the approach that needs to be adopted in the education of girls. The learning environment for girls needs to have a strong relational aspect. Girls thrive on their connectedness and they work well in collaborative environments where they are inspired by teachers, both male and female, who reflect in their own lives a sense of pursuit of Citius, Altius, Fortius! The social and emotional journey of adolescent girls is at the forefront of their reality and their lived experience. The role of those of us in education is to assist our girls to integrate these experiences into their lives as they journey towards a future filled with possibilities.

The current and future trends in girls’ education must inform how we equip our girls with the capacities for leadership and influence in the local and global communities. Interestingly enough, the most recent World Economic Forum Gender Report (2009), rates countries on how well they divide their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations Australia is rated as 20th best! This is surely food for thought in how we nurture the giftedness of our girls to strive to be advocates of justice, equality and compassionate acceptance of all. At Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College (OLSH), we are privileged to have the special ministry of the education of girls. For us education of the Heart is at the centre of education in the OLSH tradition. The OLSH Graduate is a woman of simplicity and a leader who is prepared to serve. She is recognised because she is a woman of:

  • Heart
  • Active Faith
  • Compassion
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Wisdom
  • Prayer
  • Independent Thought
  • Hope and Resilience
  • Transforming Vision

Catholic Schools Guide - Anne O'LoughlinAnne O’Loughlin has worked in Catholic education in Secondary schools for 26 years. Her journey has seen her work across the breadth of Australia in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Mount Isa and Melbourne. The vast majority of these years have been spent in girls’ schools.

A Physical Education teacher with the past 15 years being spent in senior leadership positions including Deputy Principal Faith and Mission (Mount Isa) and Deputy Principal Head of Boarding (Brisbane). In 2008, Anne was appointed Principal at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College.

Anne’s qualifications include a  B Ed; Master Arts (Theology); Master Educational Leadership.