What do you know about St Marks College? How accurate is your information?
This fact sheet presents some of the most common questions people ask about the College, together with the factual answers. By all means listen to all as each person’s experience is unique and valid to them. Arrange for a visit to the College to see for yourself is always the best path to take when reviewing any schools you’re considering.
Q1: What is the philosophy underlying St Marks Coptic Orthodox College?
St Marks College has three simple aims that inform all its activities:
1. Coptic Orthodox Christianity
The College strives to produce students who sincerely love God their Father, the Church, their Mother, and all people as their brothers and sisters in Christ, and live out the Gospel.
2. Academic Excellence
Students are encouraged to perform to the very best of their abilities. Individual talents in many areas are nurtured.
3. Participation in the Australian Community
A good Christian is one who takes an active role and responsibility in the wider community. St Mark’s takes what is best from both the Coptic and Australian communities, but protects the students from what is worst in both communities.
Experience has shown that putting together the enthusiasm of our community for their spiritual and academic goals together with modern Australian methods in education leads to amazing results. We have a wonderful opportunity to do great things with our children, and God has blessed us with the Coptic Schools to enable us to do them.
Q2: What’s so different about a Coptic School? Don’t they just teach the same curriculum as other schools anyway?
In addition to many of the services offered by other schools, our Coptic Schools offer some things that are unique, including:
Sound theology: you can be sure that your child will be taught the correct Orthodox Christian faith rather than being confused with non-Orthodox teachings.
A Christian Approach: controversial parts of the curriculum are taught from an Orthodox Christian perspective (e.g. human sexuality or evolution)
Clergy: Parish Priests and Deaconesses are involved in the daily school life of the students.
Genuine Christian staff: the Christian role model a teacher will provide is an important part of the selection procedure.
Pastoral Care: structures and programs that work and are constantly being adjusted and tailored to meet the ever-changing social, emotional and spiritual needs of the students and their families.
Cooperation: a Coptic School provides a unique opportunity for the three most important influences on a child’s life to be united in their approach to raising them: the school, the home and the parish.
Heritage: Coptic language & hymns tie students to their history and to their Church. Students learn to feel comfortable and confident in their heritage and identity as Australian Copts.
Academic Achievement: St Mark’s students have achieved very highly over the years. In large part, this is due to the atmosphere that has been built up in the St Mark’s College community, an atmosphere where parents, teachers and students are all genuinely dedicated to getting the best possible results.
Security: Coptic Colleges have a far better record in the area of serious behavioural problems (drugs, smoking, criminal behaviour etc) than any other school system.
Morality: the moral atmosphere is strongly based on the Bible. Unacceptable behaviour is quickly dealt with, both individually and as a trend among the student body. This allows children to be comfortable in doing the right thing, and to get into good habits of behaviour they will keep all their lives.
Q3: Won’t the children be isolated from the Australian community?
Coptic Schools aim to take the best of both Coptic and Australian cultures, while minimising the worst of both. A number of strategies help to achieve this, including:
Many Cultures: Students from other cultures are accepted into St Marks, provided they and their parents sign up to agreement to participate actively in the religious and pastoral programs. As an example, St Mark’s College has students from 18 different ethnic backgrounds, including Syrian, Indian, Anglo-Saxon Australian, Chinese, Lebanese, Mauritian, Italian, Serbian, Greek, Thai and Coptic – accounting for approximately 67%. We have 21 different religious denominations present, working in harmony and hand in hand with our Coptic Orthodox Studies and Ethos throughout the College.
Tolerance Through Understanding: the school strives to teach tolerance and understanding and love of all people, whatever their background.
Tolerance Through Confidence: Whilst the Coptic faith and heritage are of course the main foundation of the College, all cultures are respected. Coptic students growing in this environment acquire the self-assurance that comes automatically with being in the majority group. But they also learn to understand, deal with, and respect other cultures within and outside the school.
From All Nations: The Staff at St Mark’s College are as diverse as it’s student population with approximately 50% Coptic background and 50% of non-Coptic origin. This mix exposes the students to a variety of other cultures and ways of life, within the limits of the Christian ethos. Students from other cultures have been elected as school captain, come first in Coptic Orthodox Studies and developed their Bible skills to amazing levels at our Colleges!
Interaction: Students participate weekly in sports and competitions against other schools in Sydney.
True Blue Aussies: Important Community events such as ANZAC Day and national sporting events are marked with suitable celebrations and activities that emphasise the links between our cultures as well as reinforcing the Australian identity of the students.
History: Excursions to places like Bathurst (to learn about the gold rush) and Canberra (to learn about our Federal Government) instil in students a sense of belonging and citizenship to Australia.
Engaging Society: Students are regularly required to follow and report on the newspapers, TV news and the other media as part of the curriculum. TV shows, movies, video games and popular music are not avoided, but rather studied from Christian point of view.
The proof is in the pudding! Graduates from have usually expressed a deep appreciation of the foundation the Coptic Schools have given them for later life. This applies to work and study habits as well as to moral and spiritual strength to cope with the stresses and difficulties of life in the big world. Just ask one of these graduates for yourself!
Q4: Does my child really need protection at school?
There is no doubt that schools have a lasting influence on a personal character. Your child will spend 13 of the most impressionable years of their life immersed in their school environment. They will take on the flavour of that school for the rest of their life. The content of what is taught, the role models among both students and staff, and the specific experiences a student has at school play a major role in forming their personality and determining their future, whether for the better or for the worse.
Quarantine & Immunization
At St Marks, we use a balance of two approaches in helping children to grow into healthy, balanced and successful Christians. When they are young, we keep them away from influences that might harm them or teach them the wrong thing. We can call this approach Quarantines, since we are isolating them from something dangerous. However, as they grow up, we want them to develop their own independent sense of right and wrong and learn how to apply the teachings of the Bible to real situations. We do this by gradually and carefully exposing them to these real issues in a controlled way and with guidance, until they develop their own ability to judge and make the right choices. We call this approach Immunization, since the controlled exposure to wrong builds up their own resources to resist it, much as a portion of a virus in a vaccine stimulates the body to develop its defenses against that virus. Coptic schools provide both approaches at appropriate times to difficult issues such as: Evolution; Human Sexuality; Anti-Christian Beliefs; Other Religions; Atheism Relationships; Marriage; The Media; Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking.
The joint approach between the home, school and Church allows the child to grow up in a consistent environment that makes for a healthy and positive outlook on life.
Q5: What is the academic standard of St Mark’s like?
When St Mark’s College first opened its doors in 1996, no one could know how well the students might perform. In 2018, St Mark’s College will graduate its 18th Year 12 cohort. There is no doubt now that St Mark’s students achieve superior results, both as individuals and as a group.
In the national NAPLAN assessments for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, St Marks students consistently achieve results that are above the national average as a group.
One of the best indicators of a school’s success is the number of graduates who are able to enter university. Most comprehensive schools – like our Coptic Colleges who take in students of many different ability levels – would be happy if 50% of their Year 12’s went to university.
Selective schools, who take in only the top 5% of students, generally achieve university entrance rates of about 80%. St Mark’s College has consistently achieved university entrance rates of 85-98% over its time of HSC cohorts – a remarkable achievement for a non-selective school! How can a relatively small school achieve such great results for its students? St Mark’s provides a unique recipe that draws out the best out of students academically.
There is a comfortable family atmosphere that frees a child to be his/herself. Our community has a very strong study ethic supported by the home which leads to a similar atmosphere in the classroom. Teachers who work at our Colleges often remark that it is such a change to have students who actually want to learn! There is a general culture of striving to do your best and aiming as high as you can, but this is tempered with the spirit of Christian love and cooperation which avoids the harmful, selfish kind of competitiveness present in some selective and private schools. And of course, the schools work with the parishes to provide pastoral care and support and spiritual guidance through the stressful times.