U SWOT m8?

Each year posters pop up all over campus advertising something called SWOT. But what is this SWOT caper?

I have been involved with SWOT for nearly a year now and have enjoyed every minute of it. Currently I’m on the team as subject manager (Biology) for both the masterclasses programme and SWOT week. But enough about me, the answers to all your SWOT questions are awaiting you below!

Why are you involved in SWOT?

At Year 10, Victorian students from disadvantaged schools are three years behind students from wealthy schools in literacy and numeracy.*

Socioeconomic background—nothing to do with a student’s work ethic nor talent—is one of the strongest predictors of how a student will do at school.*

In my opinion, it is horribly unfair that certain students get access to a good education whilst others are denied such an opportunity. It is also horribly unfair that a kid’s opportunities in life are tied to their parents wealth and not to their own attributes.

Kids have made no contribution to their parents’ wealth whatsoever, so it seems ridiculous that their futures are so inextricably tied to it.

Through my experiences at high school and working with students, I have been really struck by how many bright and exceptionally hard-working kids never really get a chance in life because they’re limited by their circumstances.

That we waste so much talent in this country and don’t give everyone a fair opportunity to have a good crack at life seems awful to me and I want to change that. Hence my involvement in SWOT!

OK. That’s nice and all, but what is SWOT?

At the moment, we’re running two programmes at SWOT: SWOT masterclasses and SWOT week.

SWOT masterclasses

These masterclasses are only very new. Basically, we go out to disadvantaged schools in Melbourne and present seminars in our subject specialisation (for me that’s Biology). This provides the students a really positive opportunity to work closely with some pretty bright cookies from Uni (not just Melbourne, we have a Monash kid too!) and get access to resources that would normally be denied to them because of the school they go to.

SWOT week

SWOT week, on the other hand, has been around for donkeys years. It was originally run by the medical society at UniMelb but has since been taken over by Melbourne University Health Initiative.

SWOT week runs during the mid-semester break of semester two and consists of a week of intense revision of a host of year 12 subjects. Each subject gets its own day, so we’d only need you one day of the week!

We run these programmes so that students from disadvantaged backgrounds can get access to external help with their VCE classes. Normally, such help would be denied to them because of the enormously prohibitive costs of similar programmes run by other organisations.

Biology Team SWOT Week 2014. Image: SWOT Facebook Page
Biology Team SWOT Week 2014. Image: SWOT Facebook Page

Should I get involved?

Absolutely! I hope that I’ve managed to convince you so far that SWOT is a really important programme with really important goals. What I’ve saved until now though is that it’s actually a stack of fun!

I was genuinely shocked by how much fun I had at SWOT last year; in fact, I did feel a little bit guilty about that—is volunteering meant to be that fun?! By the time you’re interacting with students, you’ll have formed really close friendships with your fellow SWOTers, which is great because they’re ace!

If you’re someone who believes in equality of opportunity and who enjoys a challenge, then SWOT is definitely for you. It is a fantastic programme with fantastic aims, made all the better by the amazing and genuinely lovely people who get involved.

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All my friends and I…waiting for the students to come back from lunch! Image: Author’s own.

Nice! How do I apply?

Applications for SWOT masterclasses and SWOT week close this Friday (May 1). All of the deets can be found on the MUHI website.

Get cracking on those applications and see you at SWOT! :)

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GIF: giphy.com

– Travis

Disclaimer: the author of this article works with MUHI in a voluntary capacity as SWOT masterclasses team leader (Biology) and SWOT week coordinator (Biology). The views in this post are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of MUHI or anyone affiliated to SWOT. Any factual errors in this post have been made by the author.

*Sourced from PISA 2012: How Australia Measures Up

1 Comment

  1. I attended this program last year and found it really beneficial!!!

    What I will say though is that , while being from a disadvantaged background makes getting into university harder, it’s not impossible! My education was not necessarily that much different because of where I grew up and went to school.

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