Published on June 13, 2022

Success, is a complex term. Often in schools we measure success in relation to grades, NAPLAN results, and whether our school made it into the top 100 schools based on students’ HSC results. Other visible markers of success are whether your child walks across the stage to get a commendation or wears a badge demonstrating their leadership position in the school. Like standardised tests and HSC results, these are tangible and measurable. We can see and quantify the success based on known metrics. There is a degree of objectivity, and we take great comfort in this.

Intuitively we know that the success of our students is much more complicated than grades, awards or leadership badges. These measures of success are very important, but so are the attributes and competencies people need to create a safe world where everyone belongs. These attributes and competencies feel much less tangible but are no less necessary to determine the success of individuals and societies.

In 2018 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) published the global competence framework titled: “Our Youth for an Inclusive and Sustainable World”. Sitting alongside this framework was a global competency assessment conducted by PISA in participating countries and schools. This document laid out a clear framework for what a successful education for the future looks like in schools. In the foreword to the publication, Gabriela Ramos (OECD Chief of Staff at the time) made this bold statement:

“Reinforcing global competence is vital for individuals to thrive in a rapidly changing world and for societies to progress without leaving anyone behind. Against a context in which we all have much to gain from growing openness and connectivity, and much to lose from rising inequalities and radicalism, citizens need not only the skills to be competitive and ready for a new world of work, but, more importantly, they also need to develop the capacity to analyse and understand global and intercultural issues. The development of social and emotional skills, as well as values like respect, self-confidence and a sense of belonging, are of the utmost importance to create opportunities for all and advance a shared respect for human dignity. … Together, we can foster global competence for more inclusive societies.”  (source)

Becoming globally competent involves developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that foster inclusive practices. This means engaging in actions that support peace, wellbeing and sustainability, and demonstrating compassion for others and our world.

OCED diagram
The dimensions of global competence


The global competence framework (see above) defines success as a young person’s ability to move between spaces of cultural difference with sensitivity and humility and a desire to listen to understand. It defines success as a person’s ability to acknowledge that thought diversity and alternative perspectives make our world richer and contribute to complex problem-solving. Success, then, involves a high degree of emotional intelligence and the ability to work across cultural and linguistic divides to find solutions to our global problems.

Pandemics, wars, rising nationalism and extremism, and the increasing divide between rich and poor means we need to move away from competitive metrics as the main measure of success in our schools. Instead, we need to embrace programs of learning that foster global competencies and the ways of being that are hard to measure in our young people.

As an IB World School, I am proud to say that HVGS strives to do just that. By embodying our values for life (responsibility, integrity, respect, citizenship, courage, compassion, optimism, gratitude) and the IB Learner Profile, we strive to think beyond the here and now to create a sense of hope that young people can create a more equitable and peaceful future. Through the IB programmes, we enable the development of the OECD global competencies.

At HVGS this year, we have celebrated passionate musicians and dramatists, the joy of Kindergarten and ELC life, students who have excelled academically at HVGS and post-school, students who are exploring the possibilities of technology and business, athletes who give back through coaching, and how HVGS enables all students to thrive through our rich co-curricular program. We have heard the stories of HVGS IBCP students who have embraced the challenge of pursuing an IB education through a career-related journey. These students embody the global competencies mentioned above as they engage, reflect and take action based on their learning. Overlaying all that we do is a desire to embrace inclusion through intercultural learning – a new journey we have embarked on as a School.

Our students embody the OECD global competencies and HVGS values every day. This is evident when our HVGS students champion inclusivity for all and ask us, as adults, to recognise the diverse identities that make up a contemporary school. It is evident when a student puts aside their opportunity to win a race to instead keep pace with a student who is struggling. It is there when an older student sits beside a younger student in distress about their homework and helps them through a math problem, or when a student buys lunch for another who has forgotten their money. This is also evident when students understand that strength in leadership is evident when a person demonstrates humility and compassion, and the courage to stand up for what is right.

We often take these everyday occurrences for granted, but they are the invisible markers of the success of our learning programs. This success is the extent to which we can feel, see and hear our students embodying the global competencies that are so needed in the citizens and leaders of the future.

Rebecca Butterworth

Rebecca Butterworth

Rebecca is the Principal of Hunter Valley Grammar School. She has a Masters of Education, International Education from Monash University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the Queensland University of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts, History and English from the University of Tasmania.