NO LIMITS TO LEARNING
Hillcrest Christian College in Queensland is one of the fastest-growing independent co-educational schools in Australia. Its teaching is based on the values and lessons of the Bible, delivered with an inspired new vision of what education should look like. “It is an illusion to think that what worked in schools 30 years ago will work in schools today,” says Executive Head of College, Jeff Davis. “We have not accepted the normal. Our results are building every year as students see that there are no limitations to their learning.”
As a statement of intent, Davis has personally overseen the removal of traditional classroom furniture, replacing it with multipurpose furniture that allows students to select where and how they work. “Our Design-Centred Learning approach means students create their own pathway,” says Davis. “Many Hillcrest parents are self-made businesspeople, and are keen for their children to develop entrepreneurial skills rather than just traditional rote-based learning.”
Hillcrest is also rethinking the way children learn to read. The “I Love Reading” (ILR) programme was developed at Hillcrest with a view to exporting it in translation to schools worldwide. ILR is a comprehensive system based on two million phonetically decoded words which simplifies the learning process and empowers junior readers to grasp literacy concepts from a young age. “ILR is the biggest innovation I have seen in the educational world since I began teaching 30 years ago,” says an enthusiastic Davis. “This programme can accelerate the reading aspect of learning by up to four times. It could truly change the world.”
Davis is excited that children as young as seven can be reading quantum physics textbooks, and so – rather than spending time learning vocabulary and improving reading standards – class time can be used much more productively.
Sport and performing arts are valued aspects of college life. Hillcrest has a renowned choral programme, and its senior basketball team is one of the best in Australia. “Even so, before each match, the team prays together,” says Davis. “The humility that comes from our culture is very evident. Children who commence at Hillcrest believing that they are individually outstanding soon discover that they can achieve far more through collaboration with others, and our learning environment fosters this.”
Teachers at Hillcrest have had to re-evaluate their role in the classroom along with their students. “Our staff recognise that you cannot teach students anything,” says Davis. “Ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility to learn something. So, at Hillcrest, our teachers focus on motivating the individual student to learn more than traditional teaching. It is this individual approach that breeds success.”
From its 10-acre bushland setting in Reedy Creek on the Gold Coast, Hillcrest has grown to accommodate up to 1,455 students, a significant increase since Davis joined in 2015. Major investment in 24 new classrooms, a senior STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) centre and a fine arts hub are hallmarks of a college confident in its mission, its message and its future.
The new Year 5/6 Precinct echoes this new philosophy of learning in a dynamic Google-style learning space, a landmark shift from the traditional classroom environment. “We are on a journey that looks amazing,” says Davis. “I hope that in the future, we might influence education from a global perspective. It is this sense of opportunity that drives us.”