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Dr Ian PM Lambert, Principal of The Scots College, recently wrote about the nature and purpose of education. 

Standardisation versus diversity

Recent attention in the media about education in Australia demonstrates a general misunderstanding regarding the nature and purpose of education and its different modes of delivery.

It seems that an egalitarian view of life now means we should standardise educational experience for everyone, rather than provide a diversity of choice for a diversity of needs. Economic, political, religious, technological and sociological priorities of the day will always define and direct educational provision. Education is not neutral. Education is a contest of ideas. 

Diversity means more choice

Australia provides its citizens with one of the most diverse models of national education provision in the world. Schools like ours provide a very different experience, offer different modes of delivery, and frame our provision in a set of beliefs and values that may not be a high priority for some people. That is fine. Human choice is something we all value highly in a democracy. We have a long history and an excellent track record.

More than just education

Schools have always been viewed as places for student learning but more recently, they have begun to be thought of as places of learning for teachers, parents, school support officers and members of the wider community. This has led them to be referred to by some as ‘learning communities’ – places where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.

It is our firm conviction that parents will continue, not only to seek academically successful schools, but to look for functional, caring communities that will offer their children safety and security. This is the role of pastoral care in a learning community.

The true meaning of pastoral care

Since ‘to care’ is a verb, it is clear that pastoral care is something we do and not merely an institutional vision. Caring means protecting or being a custodian of another, not by enclosing them or locking them away, but by making a larger space for them. Henri Nouwen, Christian theologian and writer, speaks of care in terms of reaching out to others in his book, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. Nouwen explains that to reach out to others, we must be be hospitable and welcoming.

How Scots brings this to life

At Scots, we believe that boys learn best in a caring and disciplined environment which encourages challenge, adventure, creativity and curiosity. We see the development of compassion and empathy as the basis for a caring approach to others within our strong tradition in pastoral care. We focus on respect for God, respect for self, respect for others and respect for our environment. Creating and maintaining a hospitable and welcoming culture in our boys’ schools must remain at the forefront of our focus moving forward.

In our 125th year, we will also focus on the century ahead, not just the program this year. I look forward to engaging with and connecting our Scots family across the nation and world this year and celebrating the unique and valuable contribution The Scots College is making in the lives of current boys and past old boys.

Written by Dr Ian PM Lambert, Principal of The Scots College.


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The Scots College is a proud member of the following associations.

The Presbyterian Church (New South Wales) Property Trust T/A The Scots College, Sydney Australia
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William Elder


Mr Alan Elder was born in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his parents at a young age. He attended The Scots College for all his schooling, graduating in 1944. He played 1st XI Cricket and was a member of the College Cadet Unit. After leaving school Mr Elder studied accountancy and retained a life-long love of the College, especially the Pipes and Drums. Mr Elder never married, however the significant bequest he left will allow his Scots family to remember him through the Lang Walker Business Centre.