Times are changing. You may, however, be unsure how to respond to these changing times in the way that best respects your child’s needs and sets them up for future success.
Here at One World International School, this is a question we’ve spent many hours pondering on. After all, if we can’t ensure our students get a top-notch education that is valuable not only now but in the future, then we can’t aspire to be one of the best international schools in Singapore. We have to keep ahead of the game, research what is happening in the world and what advances are being made. We must ensure that we support our students in every way possible so that when they leave OWIS they are ready to take on the world.
Accordingly, we’ve made every effort to bring our curriculum into the 21st century, which is no small task. The digital era demands that students be conversant with technology, but not reliant on it to do their thinking. They must recall facts, but think creatively, analytically and evaluative on their own as well. They need to respect all viewpoints while maintaining a healthy scepticism that enables them to parse truth from falsity and move forward with a clear vision. They must at some point move on to a successful career, yet retain an educational mindset for life. They must learn that technology is there to use but it should not predominate. It is there to support them throughout their lives, but they also need to know how to function without it.
How can we raise students who are able to do all of this? At OWIS, we believe it starts with mindset.
In his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, visionary thinker Daniel Pink argues convincingly that the top professions of former generations no longer command the same pre-eminence they once did. While accounting, law and medicine still make for excellent careers, the true leaders of the 21st century will be storytellers, designers, innovators and teachers. People who understand what it means to create something out of nothing, who can take the seeds of an idea and weave it into something masterful. Those are the people to whom we will look up to, in coming generations.
The applications to education are obvious. Gone are the days where it was enough to teach the water cycle and assume students will be able to apply the knowledge in their own lives. Instead, we must give them the tools to probe this knowledge with real-world applications.
What happens when a hurricane floods the water table? Why are deserts so dry? How can we re-direct runoff during a flash flood? Students who encounter real-world scenarios that demand creative solutions are better prepared to innovate in the future. We must teach students to keep asking questions, keep wanting to know more and extend their knowledge into subject areas that interlink with the original question. We must nurture these minds that never want to stop learning. We want them to be analytical and practical while still being able to study facts.
This is the basis for the STEAM Revolution. The acronym STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and maths. While art is an addition with which not all educators agree, we wholeheartedly believe at OWIS that students should have ready access to all tools of innovation. It is important to allow students to express their creative side alongside their practical and academic skills.
Whether or not you concur with the importance of art, we’re doubtless that you recognise the importance of giving students the tools needed to become innovators in later life. Art comes in many forms and it is important for students to understand this. Science is a crucial means for gaining knowledge about our world; engineering is the path to solving problems and creating technology; mathematics is the language used to talk about both. All of these subjects intertwine with one another. This becomes apparent during studies, for instance during chemistry experiments where mathematics skills help to figure out measurements, engineering ensures the correct set up of the equipment and science creates the outcome. Students who are conversant with these subjects are bound to be more successful in life, no matter which careers they end up choosing.
This is a crucial point. An innovative mindset is necessary across all industries, because it enables students to think critically, flexibly and innovatively, improving the world regardless of their fields. And, our students cannot become true innovators without the right mindset at school. This way of thinking teaches them to be diverse and adaptable. It prevents them from feeling pigeon-holed into one career and opens up the world around them.
There is no way to ensure the success of our student population without ensuring that each of its teachers and administrators is held to the expectation of respecting this forward-thinking, student-centred and innovative mindset.
At OWIS, we believe strongly in the idea of teaching for the future, not just teaching facts, but teaching students how to learn. If they do not learn how to learn, they will not be able to engage in the cutting-edge exploration in which scientists, engineers and mathematicians necessarily engage on a day-to-day basis.
We support our teachers with rigorous training and appropriate resources. We encourage our teachers to keep learning, as without this how do they pass this knowledge on to their students? We give teachers opportunities to ask questions, experience new topics and learn from one another. We allow students the freedom to explore on their own, while at the same time stepping in to keep them on track or adjust the frameworks we’ve built around their learning. We set our expectations in the very youngest years so that students know they are allowed (and expected) to be creative, to innovate, to think outside the box. We make them feel confident to question issues, work through problems and feedback their ideas. Our classrooms are open, friendly spaces where no idea will ever be shot down. We want our students to feel confident and take ownership of their learning and do this in a range of ways.
Only by giving our students the freedom to truly investigate their world on their own terms can we feel secure that they will continue to learn long after they leave our doors. They will voluntarily adopt the roles of innovators, setting them up for success in higher education and career. And they will maintain those skills throughout their lives, bolstering our future for decades to come. We want our students to flourish into modern world leaders.