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Meet the Principals - Mark Phillips

26 NOV 2020

In this mini-series, we get to know the Principals at Crimson Global Academy.

Meet our Principal, Mark Phillips. Mark is deeply committed to helping students thrive, having been involved in the education sector for over 35 years. Prior to joining CGA, Mark was Deputy Principal of Macleans College with students achieving Top in NZ and Top in the World results under his leadership. Mark looks forward to continuing this leadership to allow our CGA students to reach their highest potential!

Give us a picture of a high school-aged you. What kind of student were you? Did you enjoy high school?

I certainly did enjoy high school, I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed involving myself in a lot of sporting activities; I played a lot of football, I played a lot of cricket, and I played a lot of badminton. I enjoyed my studies; I enjoyed hanging out with friends - like every teenager does - and was actively involved in school - I had a great time.

Did you have a clear picture of your path after high school? Was university always the next step?

University didn't really come onto my radar until about year 12, in fact, nothing really was on my radar apart from football and badminton and cricket!

When I left school, I did an undergraduate first year in engineering and realised quite quickly that an engineer I would not make (much to the disappointment of my father who was an engineer) but certainly haven't regretted that decision at all. I moved into mathematics and physics, the pure sciences if you like, and really, really enjoyed my time.

What influenced your decision to move away from engineering and into teaching mathematics and physics?

I think I was always people driven; interactions with people have always been paramount. I enjoyed helping students and other classmates with mathematics or sciences, and I just thought that was a profession that I'd really engage with and really find valuable. I think if there was no teaching background in my family, I just thought that was a really inspiring way to spend my life actually.

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You’ve taught at a number of schools, what’s your favourite thing about teaching?

I think engaging with the students is by far the most enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding feature. Students love to learn, they love to be challenged, and they thrive on positivity and feedback. They really are motivated and respond when you believe in them - and that interaction with students in that way is just outstanding - it’s really, really enjoyable.

What interested you most about CGA and what made you come on board?

I think there were a number of factors about coming to CGA. So first of all the people involved in the organisation. I think having John Morris here was a great attraction for me. Having a person with that reputation and background in success, and somebody who has made real differences to the New Zealand education scene is fantastic.

I think the idea of an educational startup was something that was quite appealing - I was involved in a data analytics startup for a couple of years - and that uncertainty, that drive to develop and initiate something new was certainly appealing.

I think the idea of working for a bigger company - for Crimson - that has grown from just an idea by a couple of young people into quite a significant company is something that I really am encouraged to be part of.

What skill set do you think students should be aiming to develop during their time at school and uni?

So first of all, they need to be independent learners - that's absolutely critical. They need to develop a can- do attitude and be willing to learn new things. They need to understand that they must have a core base of knowledge, and it's from that knowledge they will develop a wide range of skills. Skills and knowledge - they're completely interlinked, and students need both to be successful in the modern world.

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The changing landscape of the future job market is something often discussed. Do you think the education system is preparing students for the future of work they’ll find themselves in?

I think most schools do an outstanding job of educating students. Everybody wants the same outcome; they want engaging citizens, they want students that are going to contribute to society, they want students to have a strong personal value set, and they want students that are striving to to always be better and to grow.

I think CGA tackles this in a number of ways. First of all, there's a very strong curriculum that we are delivering, and it's that curriculum that sets standards that the students have to work hard to achieve. Then there's the quality of the staff and instruction that is second to none - outstanding teachers do more than just teach the content, they really engage and inspire students to learn.

This year has seen change across the majority of industries; how have you seen the education space evolve? What elements of that change were positive? Negative?

There are large changes going on in education, and COVID has accelerated the progress in some of these areas, certainly in the online space, it has enabled both students to experience the power and the value of an online learning environment. It's really encouraged a large number of teachers who became excited and engaged, and wanted to develop their skills and repertoire in this environment. We've attracted a number of staff that have moved to the online educational space as a direct result.

Has COVID-19 changed people’s perceptions of online vs traditional learning models? If so, how?

Unquestionably. I think almost every student in the world has experienced online learning now, and I think that level of engagement and success in learning online has encouraged many students to enrol in CGA. It’s certainly encouraged many staff to enrol, as well as teachers. So we, there's no doubt it's accelerated their impact

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What key differentiators does online schooling have compared to traditional education?

I think one of the greatest advantages of the online education space are the small classes - and we certainly have that. It's almost like sitting in the front row of every classroom; the interaction that takes place between the student and the staff is substantial, and regular. The quality and quantity of questions that students get asked - and can ask - really is increased in the online environment. The actual on time learning and work that's done in the classroom, I think, is far greater than perhaps what would happen in a regular traditional school. A lot of the classwork we sit there as homework or activities to be done elsewhere, and when we're in lessons we’re really engaged. There's that massive degree of interaction between the staff and the students. It works really, really well.

In your opinion, are there any common characteristics of high achieving students?

Absolutely. High achieving students have always got a clear direction about what they want to achieve. I think they are aspirational and have high expectations of themselves. They are determined and motivated. They are inquisitive. They enjoy the learning experience. They want to maximise their opportunities. Overall, they’re very busy people who are usually engaged in a wide range of activities, and that’s certainly true for our students.

What should students look for in a university / post-school pathway?

Students need to look for courses that are going to excite and challenge them that are going to develop their base skills in whatever discipline may they choose to follow. I think having a university with a strong reputation is important, and having an understanding of the country in which you're going to move to - or the part of the country you're going to move to - to ensure you're a good cultural fit for that learning environment is also very, very important.

Interviewer: What advice would you give to parents guiding their children through a rapidly changing future?

I think as parents, you need to give them a great deal of confidence. Give them the belief that they can challenge themselves to be successful at whatever they're doing and to not be daunted by setbacks. I think resilience is an important attribute of the modern learner and the modern person in society today. Encourage them to learn and to engage and not worry too much about setbacks that will come. I think if you can instil in them a love of learning, and a desire to be successful, I think you would have done a great job.

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