2 min read April 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Glyn Cowlishaw, head of school at Providence Day School, talked about the future of education, how safety remains a priority for the school and how technology and virtual learning are shaping the future of education. Cowlishaw highlighted the importance of preparing students to enter a global workforce and discussed the impact health and wellness programs have on students, as well as faculty, staff, alumni and parents.
What have been some key highlights and takeaways from the past 12 months?
The greatest highlight for us is that we were able to maintain in-person learning during the entire 2021 school year. We managed to stay open safely for our community and that was a massive achievement. Another highlight is that the pandemic forced us to hone our communication strategies. The transparency of communication during such a crisis became even more important and we improved because of the challenges of the pandemic.
What are some mechanisms through which you provide mental health assistance?
One of our six strategic goals that we began working on pre-pandemic, health and well-being, has been a central pillar for several years. It’s not just our students but also faculty, staff, parents, and alumni who we need to reach out to. We are fortunate that we have our own in-house counseling and support team that also works with faculty and staff as well as students. The team has done a remarkable job during this pandemic. The work our parents’ association has done volunteering to support the community and its well-being has also been remarkable, organizing regular after-school mental health and well-being workshops and providing resources the whole community can take part in.
What strategies were put in place by the institution to provide counseling?
We were fortunate enough to remain open to in-person counseling but we also had to adapt and use technology in a way we have never done before. That includes cameras in the classroom and virtual counseling sessions. We’ve now grown our counseling team to 10 people when it was previously two and they are concerned with the well-being of our whole community. Technology is here to stay and it is going to influence everything we do. We are finding that we do more meetings virtually and are actually seeing an increase in attendance.
How is the school updating and constructing its curriculum?
I am excited for the things coming down the pipeline. We belong to a group called the Global Online Academy, which includes 120 schools globally. Our students had the opportunity to take classes from around the globe. That has allowed us to gain a head start on curriculum innovation. Along with that, we are seeing financial education and entrepreneurship become part of the curriculum. We just opened a new entrepreneurship and innovation department in our high school. We will always be a liberal arts school as we develop these programs but we will include life prep as well. In-person education will always be primary, but virtual learning will grow because of the access it provides.
What actions have been taken to make education accessible?
We have been active in this area for a number of years. Like many independent schools, we pride ourselves on our equity and inclusivity in every way shape or form. We will put probably 15% of our overall budget into what we call need-based financial aid. We make an effort from an educational perspective to talk about equity from a social economic standpoint. There is a privilege that comes along with a private school but we also have a very public purpose and we want to make ourselves increasingly accessible. Technology can actually help with that accessibility and we are on the cusp of being even more accessible to a greater portion of the Charlotte community.
How do you envision the workforce of the future?
We were among the first schools in the nation a number of years ago to begin a Global Studies Diploma. We are graduating students to enter a global workforce by providing a global education. Interpreting, understanding and cooperating with industries around the globe is an increasingly important demand for people entering the workforce. Traditional education is important but the notion of creative thinking, entrepreneurship and strategic design are things that are going to be demanded more and more from employers. That will impact the curriculum.
What would you say is the future of liberal arts?
A solid liberal arts education equips somebody to go into any field that they desire to be in. It is a solid platform from which greatness will spring.
What is your outlook for the school over the next two to three years?
We have an incredibly bright outlook as we are fortunate to be here in Charlotte, which has a growing, independent school sector. We have launched our Vision 2030 plan and are committed to continuing to create a world-class environment from a teaching, learning, and belonging perspective. Being part of this thriving Charlotte community allows us to plan our future with incredible confidence.
The most immediate priorities for us remain safety and well-being of students, faculty, and staff. There is no doubt that health and wellness have become a huge concern for all of us in the education sector.
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