Illawarra student's Big Picture goals score her a UOW place

FIRST: Thirroul teenager Maisie Randall is the first from the Illawarran to graduate from the Big Picture program into university. Picture: Robert Peet
FIRST: Thirroul teenager Maisie Randall is the first from the Illawarran to graduate from the Big Picture program into university. Picture: Robert Peet

Mainstream schooling wasn't for Maisie Randall.

But the 17-year-old was keen to learn so opted to do the Big Picture personalised education program at Five Islands Secondary College in Port Kembla.

It proved to be a good choice, with the Thirroul teenager the first from the Illawarra to use the Big Picture pathway to get into university.

"The difference between Big Picture and mainstream is that everything we do at Big Picture is based on personal interest and then we go away and match our interests to the curriculum," Maisie said.

"So we are still studying the same curriculum but in a personalised way which completely changes the whole attitude in the classroom.

"[Students] are all very much motivated to do our work because we are all interested in it and we all take responsibility for it."

Big Picture advisor Emily Goss said students in the program find a way to learn and things to learn about that keep them engaged in learning and keep them wanting to learn.

Instead of the traditional HSC and ATAR, students in this program apply the NSW curriculum criteria to an area of interest.

"It's a rigorous process that helps students learn more about themselves and expand their knowledge," Mrs Goss said.

"One of the main things we say about Big Picture is we have one student at a time in a community of learners.

"It is not a one-size fits all program, so any student can come into it and be treated differently."

She added it was important to shift away from the one-size fits all education system.

"Whether that's through a path like Big Picture or through some of the other more innovative things that lots of schools are doing, that's what we need to be looking at," Mrs Goss said.

"Big Picture has been an amazing experience as a teacher because I get to watch students who have struggled with learning come back and learn to love it."

One of those students is Maisie, who will be studying economics, philosophy and politics at the University of Wollongong this year.

"It was a fairly rigorous process, over my senior year I had to develop a thesis which also produced a real world product, so we had to have a correlating real world product and academic thesis," she said.

"I also had to write an autobiography and engage in learning through internship.

"It was tough but enjoyable. I don't think it is for everyone but I would definitely recommend Big Picture to others.

"I think it does take a specific learner but I also think it works surprisingly well."

Maisie added she wasn't sure yet what she plans to do after uni.

"At the moment it is more about continuing to learn and learn on a grandeur scale," she said.