As Sydney tutoring firm Talent 100 opens its flagship Learning Centre, it’s clear a paradigm shift is taking place in the world of teaching and learning
Buzz words like ‘thought leadership’ and ‘critical thinking’ are thrown around a lot in the field of education these days.
Many teachers and policy makers are being forced to re-evaluate learning standards and frameworks as the world demands students and graduates possess interdisciplinary and transferable skills, while students demand effective and relevant teaching.
Digital technology has become part of the fabric of 21st century living. Kids today don’t know life without the internet, computers, smartphones and ipads.
In order to make learning engaging, there’s a need to combine the digital experience with the traditional classroom space.
Today’s students are facing issues including climate change, global population expansion, health crises and other environmental and social issues. They need to be able to not only master the traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also to communicate, engage and discuss ideas.
At the recent launch of Sydney tutoring firm Talent 100’s new branch on Sydney’s north shore, the Founder of Talent 100, Richard Chua, detailed how his journey began as he set up the firm in 2008 shortly after graduating from university.
“It seems like not so long ago, I was teaching our first batch of students in rented church and community centres in Epping and Parramatta,” he said. “Back then, I would write our notes during the week, print them out on the Friday night and then teach for the entire weekend before packing everything up on Sunday.”
Stepping in to the new Talent 100 HSC Learning Centre in Chatswood you can see a lot has changed since then.
There are bean bags and meditation lounges, yoga mats, cool music, an electric blue kitchenette filled with fresh fruit, funky polaroid walls, alongside tutoring rooms and group study areas. It is clear this is not your traditional high school coaching college. This is Silicon Valley meets Sydney.
The Talent 100 team seems combine a strong teaching philosophy and physical learning environment to create the best possible 21st century learning experience.
“As the founder of Talent 100, I’m constantly looking to different experiences – and different industries – to see how we can evolve the learning experience here,” Chua explains.
After working at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View for several years, Chua experienced a collaborative culture with a focus on grassroots ideas alongside state-of-the-art facilities including gyms, cafeterias, recreation rooms and swimming pools.
“We could constantly focus on our work and solving tough problems because it was a fun place to be,” Chua says. “Sometimes taking a 10-20 minute breather can make you twice as productive for the next few hours. And that’s one of the insights that we’ve integrated into our centres.”
Setting the bar for innovative HSC learning, the new centre, the first of its kind in Australia, builds on the ‘third place’ concept of a safe, fun and healthy environment between home and school.
The idea of an holistic approach toward mastering the HSC is particularly relevant in a time where kids are stressed, anxious, overworked and apprehensive of their final years at school. Providing a unique space to nurture mind and body will help students feel more comfortable. It’s a place for students to learn, hang out with friends and meet with like-minded, achievement driven individuals.
“We started to notice that many students were bringing in their own smoothie and toastie machines to make a snack before starting class, and that they would plug in their iphones to listen to music for 10-15 minutes to relax before forming their own study groups,” Chua says. “Just this weekend, one of our students actually said, ‘It’s so convenient to study with my friends here, I basically live here on the weekend’, so we decided to create an infrastructure that would make them feel at home.”
Education should prepare young people for more than getting into university, it should prepare them for life.
“We are leading the way for greater innovative learning, demystifying the HSC for students and helping them identify their career pathway in what can often be a challenging time in a student’s life,” Chua explains.
Major inspiration for the Centre came from Chua’s passion for entrepreneurship. Tutoring rooms where classes are held are named for tech industry luminaries such as Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Inspirational quotes and hashtags adorn the walls but it doesn’t have that awkward feeling of adult designers trying too hard, instead it feels like a fashionable, fun working space that teens will enjoy being in.
“In our other centres, we choose to celebrate revolutionary thinkers like Einstein, Tesla, Newton and Shakespeare whose works have changed the course of history,” Chua says. “But for Chatswood, we decided to put current technology thought leaders who are changing the world as we speak.”
At the launch of the Centre, Dr Tim Hanna, Head of English, explained the mentor system (because they’re not called teachers). “We are humans who encourage our students to be humans.” This means students are taught not only about efficient and effective academic study, but also about communication, understanding and goals. They are high achievers, but they are being instilled with knowledge, presumably also at home, about how to be a good person, not an automaton with the ability to solve problems at will.
In less than seven years of operation, Talent 100 has helped almost 5000 students make their career aspirations a reality. Richard Chua has just hired David Sadler, Head of Maths at Sydney Grammar School and author of the Cambridge Mathematics Textbooks, to join the centre from next year.
As Chua says, “In Silicon Valley, young people – sometimes teenagers – work on problems that impact hundreds of millions of people. I wanted to inspire our students to think bigger, to see that with the right vision and a strong foundation in maths and science that they too, could change the world.”