Principal 10/3/23: Artificial Intelligence and growing interest in Independent Schools

Impact of Artificial Intelligence

Last newsletter, I wrote on the topic of digital technology using artificial intelligence, particularly with reference to the rapid uptake and ongoing impact of Chat GPT. I suspect that, while technology of this kind has been in use for quite a while (eg predictive text), the ‘chat’ functionality and the power of its responses will have ongoing impacts on how we utilise technology. Not unlike the changes we have experienced since the introduction of smart phones.

As part of my last article, I set the challenge for readers to identify the paragraph written by Chat GPT. The response from you was good and interesting. The section that wasn’t mine was number two (red).

So, what does this result tell us?

A minority (only a third) of readers correctly identified the correct paragraph, however, it was the most popular choice. In chatting with community members who had completed the quiz, some looked for a paragraph that wasn’t my style of writing or looked for details that are specific to our school. Others looked for clunky phrasing that might be indicative of text compiled by an algorithm.

What might we infer from this in the context of teaching and learning and artificial intelligence?

While a teacher’s close knowledge of their students and the quality and individual characteristics of their work will help, the sophistication of current and future AI will likely mean some will slip by this initial check.

Assisting students in understanding their ethical responsibilities will be an ongoing endeavour for teachers. A formal example is the NESA ‘All my own work’ program which is completed by all students entering Year 11. Engaging with your children at home to talk about the long-term problems with relying on technology is also part of this solution. While there may be a short-term benefit in time saved using AI, final exams which carry the greatest assessment weighting are still completed under exam conditions and nearly always using handwriting.

The High School Executive have considered how to approach assessment task design to enable evaluation of independent student work and the assessment policies are being updated to reflect changes to technology.

Key points to consider in these documents include:

  • To acknowledge any work that is not their own, students are instructed to include substantial conversations with tutors, teachers, experts in the field, etc, in their bibliography.
  • Students must submit their own work for assessment. Malpractice refers to any activity undertaken by a student to gain an unfair advantage over others.

Examples of malpractice could include:

  • using artificial intelligence (AI), e.g. ChatGPT, to generate the response, or part of the response, and presenting this as their own work.
  • Using AI to improve the quality of a response and presenting this as their own work.

Growing interest in Independent Schooling

This week our school has hosted a series of Open Days. We have been overwhelmed with interest from families who have booked for a tour and are interested in enrolling their children at William Carey. Open Days were on Tuesday and Thursday this week, with two more on Saturday morning – all sessions are booked out. While this makes for a busy and long week it is a real pleasure to meet with families and hear where their interests lie in relation to our school. Tours were also held for parents of the year 7 group for 2024 who attended a year 7 testing day last Saturday.

This significant interest in our school is part of a bigger trend that has been reported in the media during the past month. Data released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows in 2022, enrolments in independent schools grew by 3.3% (and 25% over the past decade). This is notably more than for the Catholic school sector, while enrolments in government schools slightly decreased.

This is a real indicator that independent schools are meeting the needs of our communities. While the media will often lump independent schools together and characterise them by exorbitant fees and high-end facilities, such descriptions do not match most independent schools. In fact, while rarely mentioned in the media, independent schools reduce the cost of education for the government and thus have a beneficial economic impact on wider society.

The strength of independent schools is in the name. The independence of schools provide families with the choice of schooling within the communities they serve and is an essential aspect of the Australian educational landscape that  needs to be preserved.  The increased interest and growing enrolments confirm that our communities want this option for their children. The opportunity for families to choose faith-based schools or otherwise provides diversity and strength for our society. Providing a learning setting that seeks to serve our whole community through high quality teaching and learning and a robust framework of wellbeing programs, built on biblical foundations, is core to William Carey’s existence, in every aspect of our operation.


God Bless, 

Mr Keith McMullen