What’s distinctive about the MECS curriculum?
The distinctiveness of our curriculum can be summed up as follows:
It is biblically based and full of biblical perspective. It is Christ-centred, child oriented and holistic. Throughout the curriculum teachers apply a transformational biblical worldview to the task of education. It fosters learning for appreciation, learning for understanding, and learning for service. Its goal is responsive discipleship.
It is a school based integral curriculum that is appropriately broad and deep (we describe what integral means in a separate answer). It enables cooperative and interdependent learning methodologies. It fosters diverse learning experiences in real life contexts. It seeks the wise and effective use of information resources, enabling students to access and analyse information, and engage in critical discernment;
Curriculum is not merely about what is taught, it is also about those who teach. Our teachers are committed to a biblically based faith and worldview. We assist our teachers to pursue ongoing professional learning in Christian education. Our teachers partner with parents for the education of their children. Our teachers are curriculum developers. Our teachers work as teams and with a collegiality amongst them in working toward our vision;
Our curriculum cultivates age appropriate student self-responsibility for learning. It calls for students to engage in diverse age learning groupings. It seeks to be responsive to the individual needs of students, and develops the unique gifts of each student as an image bearer of God.

How is the MECS curriculum organised?
MECS curriculum has been developed at school over many years and very comprehensive. The overall organising principle is explained in the integral curriculum section.
In summary, MECS’ curriculum (Prep – Year 10; Years 11 & 12 largely follow the VCE curriculum) can be divided into two parts: Core Studies and Skills. Core Studies (CS) is the largest part of the curriculum program and it focuses on a ‘chunk’ of life. See the CS list of topics that are placed in a table at the end of this booklet. In the MECS non-subject based curriculum, CS incorporates what in other schools fall under the social sciences and humanities umbrella. Being an integral model for curriculum, these topics include literacy, art and science connections. The integral approach facilitates the underpinning of a Christian perspective and a much easier development of a distinctive Christian curriculum. In the Middle School, the CS program takes about 60% of the program and is led by the class teacher.
The skills part of the curriculum covers the key learning areas that are essential for educational development and not specifically covered within the CS program, e.g., literacy or English, numeracy or Maths, Art, Science, PE, etc. A thorough audit against state based curriculum is conducted to ensure there are no gaps in the MECS curriculum.
More detailed explanations and outlines of each of the Primary, Middle and Senior School’s curriculum are given in the Handbook for each section.

What does integral curriculum mean?
Integral curriculum is in contrast with a traditional approach to school curriculum. Traditionally school curriculum is seen as consisting of a number of different, disconnected and unrelated subjects. In a sense, life is carved up into a number of different pieces or subject areas. Often each of these areas comes to be seen as more important than any other. You can see an example of this in the title of the textbook “Chemistry: The Key to the Earth”. The title implies that chemistry can explain everything! The fragmented subject curriculum of traditional schooling may make schooling a difficult and ‘unreal’ experience for many young people.
An integral curriculum starts from a completely different place. It begins by acknowledging that we always experience life as a whole before we ever experience particular subjects. We begin with our everyday experience and identify things that we don’t know or understand. We try to learn about these things in their real life complexity. We begin with and return to the ‘whole, concrete things’ that we experience in everyday life rather than the pieces that have been carved up to study as particular subjects in isolation from one another.
This does not mean we ignore the subjects you might expect to see in a traditional school. We draw upon them to help us understand the particular part of creation we are studying. The various subjects provide us with different approaches and methods for gaining a deeper and richer understanding and appreciation of creation. We also supplement our Core Studies program (the part of our curriculum which focuses on ‘concrete things’ and large areas of life) with the more traditional subjects such as maths, science, English, physical education, etc. to ensure that students develop the skills they need for further study in these areas at higher levels in the secondary school.

Why do you have multi-aged classes?
Schools are the only places where people spend so much of their time living and working with people of their own age. It is much more common for people from a range of ages to work and live together. The benefits of maturity and experience come from older people, while younger people contribute energy, vision and insights. We believe that ‘multi-aging’ our classes provides particular educational and social benefits that are not provided in normal aged-linked classes. Multi-aged classes have students with a wider spectrum of abilities that can be used to enhance the personal, social and educational development of all children. At times, we group students of different ages and abilities together so that those with greater understanding or more developed skills can assist other students. Sometimes people assume that only the ‘weaker’ students benefit from this arrangement. However, if you have ever had to teach someone, you’ll have found out that one of the best ways of learning something is to teach it to someone else. Thus, the ‘stronger’ students become more adept and confident with their own learning, as well as benefiting from the experience of actually helping someone else. At other times, however, students with similar age and ability levels are grouped together so that teachers can meet and provide for their particular needs. We also know that mixed arrangements brings social freshness. Students who begin with the one age group in Prep can stay with that same set of social dynamics for 13 years. It is better that they are mixed around over the years.

What are MECS’ academic standards like?
As a school committed to seeing every student do their best, MECS strives to offer and deliver an academically robust program. Many factors will determine the results that a student achieves. If this interests you, please see the other questions that deal with students’ gifts and excellence.
Even though results change from year to year, our students’ outcomes in assessments such as VCE or NAPLAN show that MECS’ approach produces strong results. The comparative advertised VCE and NAPLAN data reflects the fact that the MECS approach is rigorous and can ‘match it’ with all other local secondary schools, independent or state. Compared with other independent education providers you should consider the following: MECS doesn’t give scholarships to ‘smart’ kids; MECS doesn’t set entrance tests for enrolment; MECS sticks by all students (whatever their academic ability) if they want to get their Year 12 Certificate; and MECS includes all its students in its results.
It needs to be remembered that VCE results are just one measure of educational success. They are designed to determine suitability for tertiary course entrance. It is simply just one way of measuring learning.

Are you reluctant to advertise your VCE results because they are nothing to write home about?
Not at all. Besides, VCE results are available in the public domain through newspapers and the internet. The Federal Government also requires that we provide scholastic results for our community. You will find them in each year’s Annual Report available from the office or on our website.
We have steadfastly resisted the trend to market VCE results as a measure of educational quality. Our reluctance to parade results has nothing to do with ‘accountability’ or that we might have something to hide. Rather, the results parade has become a marketing game that does not do any school credit. Statistics are manipulated and a level playing field just does not exist when it comes to VCE scores (see “What are the key determinants of student academic success?”).
VCE results are merely one type of measure of student performance. Their main use is for entry to tertiary institutions. However for the large proportion of students who do not plan on further study, the VCE does not provide a strong indication of their giftedness and nor should it be used to assess their success or failure. It is unfair to the students who have performed faithfully and are heading to work, apprenticeships or a non-university pathway, to be judged by a tertiary entrance score. At MECS, we want to celebrate the faithful work of these students as much as those who have gone on to doctorates.
MECS also has an ‘in principle’ objection to comparative assessment, where a child’s educational worth is displayed as a mark against others. We see this as a harsh and potentially dangerous instrument. Insights into how a student is going should be broad; specific to the child; having a bias towards success; and focussed on proactive goals for future development. All this being said, we are still proud of our VCE results. Anyone who views these results will see that they compare very favourably with the ‘highest’ of local independent and state comparisons.

I’ve been told the VCE is critical for my child’s success in life. Is that correct?
There is a broad view in our society that schools are essentially preparing students for the VCE and that Year 12 ENTER result determine a student’s life direction and potential success. This is largely a massive ‘con’. There is a major trend in advertising VCE results which demonstrates just how seriously many take all this. Discerning parents query the validity of this tricky ‘VCE results’ game.
The main purpose of a VCE ENTER score is for university entry, but even for this purpose, there are doubts about its effectiveness. In an article in The Age in June 2008, the author notes that higher education critics insist that ENTER scores are a crude measure of suitability for tertiary study. She quotes Professor Greg Craven of the Australian Catholic University (ACU). He said, “At the moment universities select students in an impossibly crude way…We basically bring students in on the basis of a couple of numbers and we have no idea how they are even derived.” Craven was speaking about the plan for ACU to introduce broader selection criteria for applicants.
While MECS is also critical of the view that the VCE is the ‘be all and end all’, it does not mean that we do not take the VCE seriously or make every attempt to maximise a student’s result. In fact, the very opposite is the case and we do it with an all-of-life approach to your child’s education.

How does MECS support students to achieve their very best in the VCE?
The learning culture in the MECS Senior School should be quite clear for any visitor to see. The Senior School is a wonderful facility that seeks to be a relational, caring and robust context for learning. The VCE program is explained in the ‘Focus on Senior School’ Handbook. Please visit and talk to our Senior School staff. As you do so you will discover their strength, specialisation and commitment.
Outside of these main support features MECS offers: Opportunity to undertake Unit 3 & 4 subjects in Year 11 (with guidelines); Supervised Study Centre and compulsory study use of ‘study blocks’; Two weeks of Year 12 orientation at the end of the Year 11 year; Compulsory practice exams under exam conditions; an Exam preparation program; Year 12 Orientation & Study Camp; and VCE preparation skills workshops.

What are the key determinants of reported student academic success?
Schools can shape their reported academic success with three key factors: (1) Who is let in; (2) How are those who don’t make the grade, treated; and, (3) How and what are they taught. Other factors like: teacher quality and skill; parent support; school resources; and school learning culture are all relevant but not as much as the three mentioned. MECS does not manipulate any of these three factors.
First, ‘who is let in’ or the school’s enrolment policy. Schools that fly the academic excellence flag, usually offer scholarships to ‘gifted’ kids. They use profiles and reports to determine selection, and they frequently try to stay clear of the ‘needy’ student. MECS does not offer scholarships for ‘smart students’, but rather we provide assistance to needy families. We enrol students based on committed partnership, so we get all types of students. That’s the reality of life in a diverse creation. Just like a parent doesn’t love one child more than another based on their gifts and abilities, nor does MECS give preference to academically gifted students.
Second, the treatment of students that struggle academically. Schools can control their average results by letting go of their poorly achieving students before they appear on their final list. Some of this is quite appropriate, as when a student commences an apprenticeship or finds a course they are better suited to, or even when a school asks them to leave because they are wasting their own time. However, schools that are not committed to the well being of an academically weak student can facilitate a student’s departure. At MECS, if a student is serious about finishing Year 12, we will stay committed to them. If that causes our VCE results to not look so great, so be it.
Third, ‘How and what is taught.’ Many schools talk about academic excellence. MECS talks about a well rounded, holistic education. A school that is driven by ‘academic excellence’ as measured by VCE results, will seek to maximise those results. It is quite possible to teach merely for VCE success. Students may get great VCE results but many questions can be raised about depth and effective preparation for a freer thinking and unstructured university environment. VCE students who have been ‘spoon fed’ through the VCE process frequently do not have the individual robustness or skill set to manage in a very different learning context. By contrast, MECS graduates who attend university typically complete the courses of their choice.

Are there any other factors that shape results?
Parental attitude and support is a big factor in shaping results. This ‘parent’ part is very much up to you. Of course, teachers play an enormous role. MECS staff are committed to their faith, their teaching and the students they have. There’s a range of experience. Their qualifications can be found on our web site. It’s difficult for us not to boast of our teachers, but it’s best to speak with other parents and ask them how they have found the MECS staff. If you are enquiring and would like to speak to some parents we’d be happy to put you in touch with some
Resources contribute a great deal to student outcomes. MECS is generally well placed. Class sizes are consistently at the low end allowing for greater teacher attention. Facilities, general school educational resources and the ‘out-of-class’ learning experiences are outstanding. Computer technology access is good though it is constantly being reviewed and upgraded. The school is medium in size, which can affect the number of subject offerings. There are times when secondary teachers teach outside their areas of expertise, and this can present both fresh insights and have its challenges.

What can you tell me about your graduates?
Graduates from our Senior School have entered universities and TAFE colleges. They have studied in a wide range of courses including accounting, agriculture, architecture, the arts, business and commerce, computing, engineering, horticulture, the humanities, medicine, science, social work, and teaching. Many of our students have also gained excellent apprenticeships or found significant work in all areas of the workforce.
Students proceeding to higher education have found that our Senior School has provided an excellent preparation for the academic standard of tertiary study both in the degree of personal responsibility and in the motivation expected of students. We have observed they have high levels of degree completion – a sign that they are well prepared. Other students have left either at the end of Year 11 or 12 to train and serve as nurses, ministers, mechanics, retail managers, carpenters, builders and journalists, amongst many other vocations.
Our students who have left at the end of Year 11 have become real assets to their employers. For example, four ex-MECS students have become “Apprentice of the Year”.
All of these successes reflect the quality and excellence of the education these students have received at Mount Evelyn Christian School. Yet such success reflects the prayerful support of the families these students come from, their faithful service, and the rich and wonderful blessing of God who makes all this possible.

How does MECS prepare students to be life long learners?
In the first place, we model to students that they can learn and grow in understanding in any real life setting. A key aspect of their learning environment at school is the Library Resource Centre. Our focused use of the Library Resource Centre supports the process gaining information literacy. Information literacy is about students developing a commitment to wise, informed decision-making about the value and use of information. This is an important skill in view of the pervasive nature of the internet.
We also provide students with learning experiences within a problem-solving framework. That means they have real life problems to solve and as they do so they gain skills to use throughout life. As part of their resource-based learning, we develop ever-deepening research and study skills from Prep to Year 12.
We have seen that our graduates generally cope well with the less-structured atmosphere of tertiary level study because the self-discipline of research has been an ongoing part of their schooling. A further emphasis is placed on language improvement and enjoyment, and the promotion of voluntary reading through cooperatively developed programs.

Does a school’s learning culture shape student outcomes?
Learning cultures are complex things and are shaped by a school’s core goals and vision. You can get an idea of MECS’ holistic educational approach from the way it presents itself. Compare these pairs of contrastive phrases: exclusive or inclusive; hierarchical or relational; formal or informal; highly structured or more broadly structured; stiff or relaxed; same method or innovative; cerebral or ‘hands on’; informational or experiential; individual or cooperative; uniform or diverse; extrinsic or intrinsic; externally driven or self-driven; rigid or free; mainstream or alternative; prescriptive or descriptive; restrictive or allowing freedoms. In each pair, MECS leans more towards the latter. It has been a deliberate choice and will have its advantages and disadvantages. Some of these characteristics might mean that the achievement of higher academic standards is more difficult. A highly competitive and structured, rewards-based, spoon-fed, extrinsically motivated learning environment is a setting where it is easier to achieve higher exams results than one that has the opposite style. What parents need to weigh up is; Which has greater quality and character?

Will my child be able to get into the tertiary course they are striving for?
MECS offers all the subjects required for entry to every tertiary course in Victoria. If an ENTER is required as the doorway to a particular tertiary course, every effort is made to work alongside the student to achieve that outcome. That is quite possible in a competent smaller school. MECS students have achieved the very highest of academic courses, though every year there is a range of desires and outcomes. Students should seek helpful and realistic careers and training advice. This is available from the VCE and Careers Coordinators.
In all of the partnership with you is vital. As a family, you should discuss with us the goals and aspirations of your child. We share the following example with you to illustrate this. The Barlow’s (not their real name) daughter was very bright and aiming for one of the top rungs on the Melbourne Uni list. They’d loved their MECS education, but around Year 9 they needed to ask, "Will our child make the score needed if they stayed?" It was a very difficult question. We believed that MECS would not compromise this young lady’s VCE outcome, but we also recognised that a larger, more competitive and selective environment would probably have made a few percentage points difference. Specific VCE oriented educational approaches are likely to make a small difference. In the end Ms Barlow stayed, achieved an outstanding result and went on to achieve the career path she’d chosen. In the end, the family decided the issue more on remaining settled and their commitment to the school, rather than a few points at the top end of the ENTER score.

Should we be concerned because there are limited VCE subjects and compulsory perspective subjects?
Our Senior School provides a broad and comprehensive range of VCE units. MECS offers all units that are pre-requisites for any Victorian tertiary course.
Our Senior School Handbook outlines the range of subjects we offer. At times people think that a smaller school cannot match it with a large secondary college. It is quite likely that a bigger school initially offers a wider range of subjects. What is frequently not explained when showing off the range of subjects is that many subjects are mutually exclusive, depending on the timetable. This means that even in a large school a student might not be able to undertake both Biology and Psychology because they are timetabled at the same time. MECS’ smallness allows for timetable flexibility and the opportunity to accommodate many individual choices. One area where a student may face some limits is in regard to courses not required as tertiary course pre-requisites; where there are less than 5 students for these, we tend not to run classes.
It has always been a special feature of MECS that Senior School students are required to undertake compulsory perspective subjects. We provide a more academic option that contributes to the student’s VCE, as well as a less academically rigorous option that has fewer lessons and assessment requirements. The compulsory perspective subjects from Year 10 through to Year 12 are required because of the importance the school gives to assisting students to think, discern and critique from a faith-based perspective. You can know what that ‘perspective’ means by checking our explanation of our curriculum. We outline the compulsory perspective subjects in the current Senior School handbook. The issue of compulsory perspective subjects may affect subject choice and you should discuss this with us if you think it will affect you.

What language other than English do you study?
We take pride in having a unique learning environment at MECS when it comes to the promotion and teaching of an indigenous language. In fact, MECS may be unique in Victoria as the only non-aboriginal school to teach an indigenous language, Warlpiri. Warlpiri is a language spoken in Central Australia. All students in Year 10 study this indigenous language prior to a trip that takes them to stay in a Warlpiri community for several days in Central Australia.
Apart from its inherent value as a deeper introduction to the life and history of Australia’s original inhabitants, this study has three core purposes. First, it’s the study of a complex language other than English. Second, it supports the investigation of culture as a force in human life. Third, it contributes to a student’s ability to empathise with a group central to our country and it gives insight into a major challenge of social justice.
Of course, when you asked the question you may have been thinking about languages like French, Italian, Japanese or Mandarin Chinese. It is true that we do not have a Prep to Year 8 language program for languages such as these. It is our experience that such language learning programs apart from native speakers (away from real life contexts) are often ineffective. They possibly even ‘inoculate’ children against a genuine desire to acquire a language other than English. That is why our Warlpiri program makes sense – it is connected to real life.
One of the arguments often put forward regarding the learning of other languages is that they are a means of gaining cross-cultural sensitivity. In this area, we are very happy with the way we have embedded learning sensitivity to other cultures (especially to indigenous culture) at various points in our curriculum. Feel free to ask if you like to know more in this area.

Why such a strong emphasis on camps?
Camps and other “out of classroom” experiences are a priority at MECS because they result in excellent teaching and learning. They bring relevance. Their “hands on” approach means that students can more easily apply their new knowledge in real life situations. Learning can be immediate and vital, and understanding achieved more quickly. The whole range of senses is engaged in this kind of learning; this brings a more complete understanding of a situation even for students who may not be strong in language skills.
Camps foster community; this results in participation and interaction for more effective learning. They encourage students to take on responsibilities not normally assumed at home and school. They lead students to pursue appropriate behaviour in new situations, be it public places, meeting other adults, or sharing a tent. Students discover that learning can occur throughout their lives.
A list of the MECS camping program is located in part two of this Focus On Identity booklet.

What sort of sport options does MECS have?
There are three levels to our sports program. Firstly, the weekly, 2-period Physical Education program from Prep to Year 10. Secondly, the Tribal Sports program where students play in their ‘tribes’ with/against other tribes. At Senior Primary level, this is a weekly afternoon program. In the Secondary School, this occurs every term.
The third level is carnival and representative sports. MECS holds an internal swimming, cross-country and athletics carnival and these are followed by inter-school representative carnivals with pathways for further participation. Another avenue of inter-school secondary sport occurs through a once per term Rally Day (with different specific sports every term).
Separate to the specific, intentional sports and PE program many class teachers work on student fitness. Every recess and lunch, the sports equipment store is open for students to borrow sports gear. School infrastructure planning has also made the provision of sporting grounds and facilities a priority. We have recently completed our primary multi-weather oval and our new gymnasium.

What sort of music options does MECS have?
We offer two main music programs, class based music instruction and the optional Instrumental Music program. The classroom based music in the Primary School and Year 7 has two periods per class with a specialist music teacher each week. In the Middle School (Years 7 – 9) students must choose two music electives (semester based topical music program) over their time within the Middle School. If sufficient students choose VCE music as an option, it may be able to offered it for study.
The Instrumental Music program is optional and open to all students. The Instrumental Music Coordinator facilitates arrangements between parents and the various Instrumental (including voice) Teachers. Teachers for a variety of instruments are available. Students who learn an instrument are expected to perform at least twice per year at school based instrumental recitals. Instruction occurs at lunch, after school and during normal class lessons (on a rotating-period basis, so that the same lesson is not consistently missed). Students involved in instrumental music are also encouraged to join a band in school. Those learning to sing are encouraged to join a choir.

Can we be confident that our child’s education will be comprehensive?
In the first place, your confidence can be found in the fact that we are establishing an education partnership with you. You can also be confident because we have over 35 years experience in providing Christian education. Many parents have found us to be trustworthy in this regard. In fact, in all our experience we have never observed our students to have had any disadvantage in terms of future options for post-schooling study or work. You can be confident because MECS is fully accredited by the Victorian Registration and Qualification’s Authority. This means we have to demonstrate that our curriculum satisfies generally accepted educational standards. Of course, the basics are taught, but we will take your child into learning experiences far beyond the basics.
Even though we have a school-based curriculum, we also draw on a range of government and commercial educational resources as we develop and review our own curriculum. We also check our curriculum against VELS (Victorian Essential Learning Standards), the state curriculum standards to see if there are areas we need to include in our own curriculum. In the Senior School, our Year 11 and 12 students study the state-mandated VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education), and some enrol in VET (Vocational Education and Training) units and VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) programs. We have also adopted a number of programs and use a range of commercially produced textbooks that we consider to best align with our own curriculum and educational approach.

Do you teach creation or evolution?
The short answer to this question is that we teach about both! The first and most important point is that, fundamental to our Christian worldview is the belief that the whole universe—all that exists—was created and is maintained by God. Consequently, our Christian worldview is creationist as opposed to the naturalist or materialist worldview of secular humanism. We speak of ‘creation’ rather than ‘nature’, because these very words reflect particular worldview beliefs about the origin and character of life and the universe. To speak of ‘creation’ of course implies a belief in a Creator who made all things and governs all things through his Word and law. To speak of ‘nature’ may imply that the universe ‘just is’, that there is no divine Creator and that things came to be and exist simply through the combined forces of natural laws and processes of time, space and chance. This is the fundamental difference between a Christian and secular worldview.
So what about evolution, you ask. Well, particularly in the senior secondary years we do teach about evolution. Firstly, just as we teach many things in our curriculum because it’s important for our students to know and understand our world and the beliefs that influence our lives and society generally, we teach them about evolution via natural selection. We teach them the main features of, and the evidence for, the theory of evolution as held by most scientists today. We also introduce the students to the criticisms of the theory of evolution that are made by a wide variety of scientists and philosophers. We introduce the students to alternative theories such as Intelligent Design. We discuss with the students why many scientists, including some Christian scientists, reject these alternative theories and why (and how) some Christian scientists believe that some aspects of evolutionary theory can be reconciled with the Bible. We also discuss with the students whether these are strictly scientific debates or whether they are philosophical, worldview or religious debates. Our hope is not that students will adopt a particular, ‘approved line’ (one particular Christian view), but that, especially for those going on to study science or science-related courses at university, they will have a sound understanding of the theory of evolution and can articulate problems with the theory that have been identified, and that they can begin to formulate their own response to these issues. The last thing we want is for students to leave MECS with a view that is unable to deal with or withstand criticisms that might be thrown at them at university.

What’s your approach to fantasy and material of a sexual and violent nature?
In relation to challenging or sensitive issues within the Christian community (including other religions, literature content, film and media content, music, dramatic performances, sexuality, violence, evolutionary theory, moral issues, and so on) MECS has a policy of ‘guided exposure’.
The idea of guided exposure means we are very careful in the way in which we deal with these things. We do not merely shield students from sensitive issues, but seek to develop discerning hearts and minds. Thus, teachers will introduce issues to students in a manner appropriate to their age, and with biblical perspective and appropriate critique.
As a way of illustrating this, we might consider the Harry Potter books and films. Do we simply tell children not to read and view these? For young children this will be our stance. For slightly older children our teachers will engage with the issues involved. Some of the questions might include: Are these stories about witchcraft? What is fantasy literature? What values are in the story that run counter to the gospel? Just because a book is popular does that make it good literature? We can ask similar questions of other literature that appears to be innocuous but also contains ideas and values that are counter-biblical.
Of course when parents desire greater control of the exposure of their children to certain issues, our partnership with them means that MECS respects and supports their wishes.