BLOG PAGE: A View from the Bridge
By Mr. Clayton
By Mr. Clayton
FIS a school filled with smiles and laughter - Mr Chadwick, Head of the International Primary School
I believe, quite simply, that I have not only one of the best, but one of the most important, jobs in the world. I arrive each day at one of our school campuses impassioned about spending my days among a splendidly diverse, always inspirational cohort of students, and about working with a team of top-flight professionals from around the world who have chosen to devote their lives to teaching young people how to think and to learn.
When I became Head of International Primary Section of the FIS, I said to myself “ I want to make my school an oasis in the heart of Hong Kong so that when you walk in you feel this is a place where everyone cares, a happy school filled with smiles and laughter.”
For me, if my students are happy they will want to learn and want to come to school. The reasons that they are happy are because: they are engaged with their learning, and that learning is meaningful: our students don't feel threatened, they feel safe, their minds are stimulated and that they feel listened to by caring, amazing teachers. .
Our teachers are our best resources. Our teachers provide many memorable experiences and rich opportunities for high quality learning and well-being. The curriculum on its own doesn’t do anything it is the teachers who make the difference. I believe all students can be successful no matter what their background or capabilities. At FIS we give students self- assurance and self- confidence. My teachers inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instil a love of learning. I have always said that FIS teachers are like the weather ; SUNNY, BRIGHT , CHEERFUL in the classroom but really there are the 3 ARE’s ; teachers are important Teachers are influential Teachers are able to make a difference
At FIS we are a family of 40 nationalities. FIS is like an extension of my family where every child is able to achieve and enjoy. We pay close attention to assessing where the students are in their learning and where they should be: we never stop exploring and investigating.
Through my aim “to create an oasis in the heart of Hong Kong “ I encourage the maxim ‘learning is fun from day one’, learning should be a joy and full of excitement, it should be the adventure of a life time.All students can learn if we as adult role models create the right environment in schools. I believe that academic excellence in school can be individualized to allow each child to reach their academic potential while becoming well-rounded, healthy and happy learners. Learning should be done in a safe, challenging and fun environment that infuses host country culture while celebrating and appreciating individual identity.
I echo Mr Clatyton’s view what is remarkable about schools like ours is that every year we say goodbye to Year 13 who go off to universities all around the world whilst at the same time we welcome 50x Reception students ( 4-year olds ) who are embarking on their own personal learning journey both through education and ultimately life. These reception students starting next academic year will be, by my calculations, the IB graduating class of 2030! What will their world be like then? How can we prepare these students for that unknown? What will schools look like then? We don’t know the answers to these questions, but we need to try and ensure that we help students to be; motivated, happy and engaged ;teach them to be collaborative, curious, critical thinkers and creative problem-solvers as well as good people- an old-fashioned notion, but a really important one! The needs of our students are what drives us, motivating us to do better and be better for them.We as educators have the responsibility to craft the experiences for all children to be successful in the 21st century and beyond.
We are proud of the achievements of our students. the most important thing is that they achieve at their level, they maximize their potential. academic excellence for each individual is different and we pride ourselves on being able to support, nurture and encourage our students. so our students make progress in many areas, whether that be academic, sporting, the arts-all are crucial to the development of our students to make a valid contribution as global citizens.
With the many job applications I have made over the last year and interviews attended I had to crystalise and express my educational philosophy.
My educational philosophy I concluded is written from the perspective of a teacher, a head of school and from my own personal experience as a life long learner.
If my philosophy were to be narrowed down to one sentence, it would be a quote from Kurt Hahn, founder of the United World Colleges and Outward Bound: “There is more in you than you think.”
When I think about who has had the most influence on my own life, it has always been those who made me see that there is more in me than I ever thought possible my teachers and educators. What they all have in common is not just that they thought I could achieve more than I thought possible myself, they built a relationship with me that made all this happen.
They knew that intelligence, in the multiple ways that it can be imagined, is not a single characteristic fixed at birth. Instead, it represents many things that can be developed, and best developed by having and instilling in others what Carol Dweck at Stanford calls a growth mindset.
If you have a growth mindset, you embrace challenges because they make you stronger, failure is seen as an opportunity to learn, intentional effort is recognized as a pathway to mastery, feedback is a critical friend for your improvement and the successes of others are a source of inspiration. I agree with her.
As the head of a school, I believe it is my role to create the conditions and the culture that will nourish the quality of the relationships between student and teacher and among all members of the community. I also believe that everyone in a school is both a learner and an educator in search of meaning and purpose. In the context of both developing human potential and contributing to a sustainable future for this century and well beyond,
I also believe these values are critical: mutual understanding and respect, the joy of learning, purposeful effort and a commitment to diversity. If I were to edit Kurt Hahn’s quote so that it has more of a sense of inclusiveness and recognizes that we are all part of a single interconnected world with the capacity to make a difference, it would be:
“There is more in us than we think.”
It is with this in mind that I am passionate about CONTINUING TO BE a part of developing the full potential of the mind, the body, the heart and the world we share. Leading a school is a great way to make this happen. I am not ready to step down and retire or to hang up my mortar board and gown. FIS this oasis in the heart of HK has become a school of choice, this is where we shape the next generation. The Korean International is next.
I have enjoyed every minute of my time at FIS and I will be sad to leave you all but I have more to give and offer .The Korean International School, for me and my wife, Jenny represents a terrific opportunity and an exciting challenge. My wife and I are looking forward with the prospect and the opportunity to contribute to the trajectory of excellence . It is a complex school with lots of moving parts but has great ambitions. I believe that FIS [also a complex international school] has honed my skills and my successful experiences make a good match for what I am about to do . Thank you
“Pour accomplir de grandes choses, il faut non seulement agir, mais rêver; non seulement planifier, mais croire”
" To accomplish great things , we must not only act, but dream ; not only plan , but believe "
One of the things that I am happiest with in the school over the last couple of years is the increased levels of continuous professional development. Lots of the teachers from reception to IB teachers have benefitted from it in all its forms. We have had outside visitors and speakers in to help teachers with all manner of class room delivery issues. We have collaborated between and across schools, faculties, year groups, subject areas. We have visited other schools and networked across schools and teachers. This week alone we have visited two schools in Hong Kong who have been very generous with their time in helping us in looking forward with our information technology provision. Michael Fullan wrote this in 2001, ‘It is one of life’s great ironies: schools are in the business of teaching and learning, yet they are terrible at learning from one another. If they ever discover how to do this then their future is assured.’ He is right. Andy Hargreaves in his book, Uplifting Leadership talks about co-opetion. The idea of competition and collaboration existing side by side. He cites examples form Singapore where schools are organised in self-chosen clusters of focus and interest so that schools can show what they have achieved and others can learn from their accomplishments. He also points out that giving away some of your best ideas forces you to think of new ones! This has happened across many of our interactions with other schools here in Hong Kong.
Singapore, mentioned above, Shanghai and Finland always perform well in worldwide tests. There are several overlapping features that make for their excellent performances. One of the features is teacher training and development. In Singapore it is mandated to meet several hours per week with other professionals to discuss the art of teaching and learning. In Shanghai teachers undertake 360 hours of this training per year, the equivalent of 2 hours per day. In Finland teachers have more time in the school day to plan for their students than any other country and to meet with their colleagues to discuss their students’ needs.
I recently went to watch two colleagues deliver a presentation to an audience of their peers made up of teachers from all over Hong Kong. In itself it was uplifting, affirming and exciting. They were fantastic ambassadors for FIS, they gave a lot to the audience and in their turn gleaned a lot too. Co-opetion in all its glory! I will finish with a couple of quotes from FIS teachers about the power of their CPD :
‘Having my baby was the best CPD because now I’ve got a better understanding of little people and their amazing brains. This has helped me when developing inquiry activities. I can also see things more from a parent’s perspective: even more than before, I want the best for our students!’
‘Having taught and examined IB Diploma Literature for many years, a recent CPD workshop opportunity in Singapore resulted in reinvigorating both the course content, the department and, I am sure, the pupils themselves. Such changes bring challenges and renewed fulfilment.’
‘In that training I have learnt how important the well-being of our students is for their holistic development, and how being positive and happy does impact on their learning (scientifically researched). It helps me connect more meaningfully with the students, become a more compassionate and empathetic teacher, colleague and parent. It has helped me change and reflect on the kind of feedback I give my students and own children. It has helped me not only at school but also in my personal and family life.’
Next year we will continue with this growth and development all for the benefit, ultimately of the students.
This Monday evening saw the year 13’s graduation dinner and graduation ceremony. It is the culmination of a lot of work and effort from their parents, their teachers but of course most of all the students. They have all spent around 15,000 hours in full time education in class. One can only marvel at how many hours of homework, research, revision and worry can be added to that total. It is a massive undertaking. It seems to me a shame that a student will be judged on those 15,000 plus hours by a two digit number! The ultimate in a reductionist approach! It also seems a shame that the school will be judged by a two digit number (IB average) when there have been over a third of a million teaching hours put into that year group across their time in full time education! Never mind, as the saying goes, ‘It is what it is!’
The evening was a great success with parents, teachers and students mingling and enjoying reminiscing about days gone by as well as being excited about days to come. It is always fantastic to see the primary teachers who taught the students when they could barely tie their shoe laces, chatting as they realise that they are off to universities around the world. But being in a ‘through-school’ allows us to do this. It is one of the joys. At the risk of being a bit listy it is worth first of all saying congratulations to each and every one of year 13. So well done and good luck to Georgina Cairns, Matilda Cimmerbeck, Zoe Cook, Sanaal Deshpande, Edwina Gautier de Charnace, Megan Jacques, Siddarth Jain, Maria Jane, Manon Jones, Ji Yong Kim, Argus Li, Thomas Liu, Hong Ching Lo, Zoe Rattigan, Miguel Santana, Justine Schipper, Tatum Stiles, Isabella Strapp, Chirag, Tirathrai, Alexandra Trodd, Daniella Wilson, Sophie Yeung and Melissa Yin Yeung Cho. These students have offers from many universities around the world, including but not limited to, Bath University, King’s College, London, Oxford, Bristol, Edinburgh, St. Andrew’s, Southampton-all UK. In the USA New York University, Northern Eastern, UCLA, in Canada McGill, Simon Fraser, in Hong Kong the university of science and technology, HK polytechnic university and in Australia, Melbourne University. They will be studying courses as diverse as medicine, physics, engineering, international relations, English literature, international development, maths, computer studies, media and communications, biotechnology, sport and social science, business management-phew! We are of course very proud of them all. They will make their way in the world where they will become the movers and shakers and the opinion formers of the next generation. We wish them well on that journey and remember, as Robert Browning said, ‘The best is yet to be!’
To finish I would like to thank the teachers for their tireless efforts in getting the students through an exhausting but rewarding ride in education right from reception through to year 13 and beyond. What we all do is probably not only the most important job in the world, it is also the best. ‘ A teacher affects eternity, and can never tell where the influence stops.’
As some parents will be all too aware we are now in the midst of exam season for year 11s and 13s. The IGCSE and IB exam kicked off this week and many of our students are studying hard and facing the nightmare of the exam room. Over the years since their inception, exams haven’t changed much. In fact I would argue not at all for basically 200 years. There are some moves afoot in some countries around the world to revolutionise them, but mass change appears to be some way off. Over the years too, advice given hasn’t changed a lot and hasn’t really reflected new findings in neuro-science. Students through the ages have been exhorted to work in quiet areas, copy notes, highlight important bits, get plenty of exercise, sleep and eat well and generally plan for every eventuality. Some of that advice remains good. Many of us will have our tried and trusted formulae for exam success which to a greater or lesser extent, we have passed on to our wide eyed progeny.
Well it appears that there may be a new way to memorise, understand or learn a new skill. The accepted orthodoxy for years has been like this. When we try to fully understand something, most of us tend to review the basics, complete a few related practice exercises until we reach an acceptable level, then move on. This is called blocked or mass practice. This allows us to concentrate on one topic or skill area which is then repeated and practiced until we then move onto another area to repeat the process. A different approach is called interleaving.
If you wanted to learn skills 1, 2 and 3, then learnt in a block practice mode, it would look like this, 111-222-333. To learn using interleaving it might look like this 123-123-123. It seems that in order for deep learning to take place this approach wins out. As with many new ideas in neuroscience it may appear at first counter-intuitive. The research is quite extensive and here is one which had interesting results. Students were split into two groups, one taught in an interleaved way and one through massed practice. They were being taught how to calculate the volumes of 4 different geometric solids. The interleaved group were taught all four ways at once. The massed group were taught one by one. What happened was this. When they did the practice tests as they went along the massed practice group performed 29% better. However one week after all the teaching and the practice tests the interleaved group performed 43% higher than the massed practice group.
Why is this the case? It may be the ‘illusion of knowing’ giving us a false sense of security through studying in blocks, maybe interleaving creates enough anxiety in the learner that things are unpredictable and so the learners are much more careful and attentive to what they are learning. Maybe it’s the variety that works and forces the brain to access new skills in a real and powerful way.
Variety can work at a physical level too. Most advice given to students on how to revise suggest they find a secluded convenient space to study, but some research suggests that studying the same material in two different rooms or contexts, rather than twice in the same room, leads to increased recall of that material. Instinctively, we believe that getting students to practise in the same conditions as the exams, same length of paper, same room, and same look of the papers might not be the most effective preparation. All this means that variety is key. The brain loves variety, gets bored quickly and needs things that constantly challenge it.
Let’s start by getting you thinking. Of all the school courses you have taken which one would you say was of the most value to you? A class that was really practical, the contents of which you used in your job or one that stirred your imagination like a poetry lesson or a history or art lesson? What made those courses memorable? What made them life worthy? Now can you think of classes you have taken whose content you have long since forgotten. Why is that? You didn’t understand it, you have never used it, was it wholly relevant? Now ask yourself this. Could you still take the same set of exams that you took when you were say 18 or 21 and pass them with the same or better grades? I couldn’t. So it got me to thinking, what was the point of learning about the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 or learning about the Entente Cordiale of 1904? It seems that examinations test the absorption of knowledge close to its reception, not its use in life. This can lead us in schools to focus too much on ‘teaching to the test.’ That’s what crammers do, not educationalists.
Why do teachers and examiners ask questions to which they know all the answers? How far is it by air to fly to Singapore? We know the answer. Why might you fly to Singapore is an open and interesting question. It seems to me also that life is full of many open questions-what restaurant shall I eat at? What can we do to stop global warming? Why has ISIS become so powerful and what can be done to stop them? These are questions with no right answers. Maybe as educators we should be focusing on trying to answer them. I recently went to a lecture by Marc Prensky who first coined the term ‘digital natives’ to describe children who had been born and brought up in the digital age. He was talking about relevance and authenticity. He explained several projects across a number of schools in the USA where students were given real life problems to solve. The results were astonishing. They had helped solve, amongst other things, traffic flow problems, fresh water issues, law and order dilemmas, public building use, the use of leisure space, access to fresh food and affordable accommodation. Students’ ideas had actually been used and the students were solving problems for which there were no previous answers. They were solving real life problems which has an impact on their motivation.
Ron Berger has dome some interesting research and has found that motivation and engagement increases when tasks and projects are more authentic as the above diagram shows. At the moment I would argue lots of schools are good at fulfilling the bottom requirement, not so good at the higher ones. For a long time our education systems have been based on the premise of ‘just in case’ we learn something because we might, one day, need it. I think that our systems should be based on the premise of ‘just in time’ that learning is relevant, appropriate and needed for now.
So back to my original question what was your most life worthy course? Sit down one day and recall it and tell your children!
When I was growing up there were only 3 TV channels to watch, colour TVs were rare, and children’s programmes were only on 4pm-6pm each day and TV channels stopped broadcasting around midnight and didn’t come on air again until around 8am! Obviously there was no internet, PCs or smart phones. In fact we didn’t have a telephone until I was much older. However, as we watched a little TV the idea grew that because of the brevity of the shows and short segments of the programmes that children’s attention had been reduced. However over the years of study it emerged that there is no evidence that TV has affected children’s ability to pay attention. The key to the use of TV is to do with the content of the media, not the form. Nobody talks about TV having a bad effect anymore.
There has been a strange phenomenon which has been named the Flynn effect. This is the substantial and long-sustained increase in intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world from around 1930 to the present day. Some have argued that the steady increase was related to TV and more recently social media. However this effect has started to halt in certain areas around the world. Is this because of the internet? Is it making us less smart? What are the arguments?
Columbia University has identified the Google effect. They discovered that students remember information better if they think that this information is not likely to be available on the internet. The study also showed that students are better able to remember where to find something on the internet rather than the remembering the information itself. The Google search engine is acting as an external memory. Some neuroscientists argue that the internet, social media and the like is rewiring our brains, and not in a good way!
The truth is that at the moment we don’t know whether the internet is having a deleterious effect on our intelligence. Steven Pinker has argued that we are now making better use of our brains by using Google to store and access unnecessary information. We certainly know more than we did in the past, though there is an interesting argument that the Victorians were cleverer than us-debatable! Two leading neurologists state that Google, PowerPoint or the internet is not destroying or changing our brains. They conclude, ‘We will no more lose our ability to pay attention than we will lose our ability to listen, see or speak.’
There are reasons to be careful with the amount of screen time that children have. It seems that studies have shown that excessive media can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders and obesity. Two hours of screen time a day seems to be the optimum time recommended.
In conclusion the argument continues to rumble on. It seems intuitive that the internet is making us less intelligent, but there is no solid evidence to support this. At the moment it appears to be the case that the internet is making us more intelligent. What on earth did we do in 1976 to make us smarter? Watched the three channels and read some books!
So this week, since this is a school and I’m a trained teacher and teachers ask lots of questions, let’s start this week with a couple of questions :
Who wrote and had published one of the first medical text books in 1543, called The Fabric of the Human Body?
A Ambroise Pare
B Andreas Vesalius
C Leonardo Da Vinci
D Claudius Galen
Who is widely credited with the discovery of the first antiseptic to be used in surgery in 1865?
A Dr. James Simpson
B Dr. Robert Liston
C Dr. Joseph Lister
D Dr. Horace Wells
E Dr. John Snow
Answers are at the bottom of the article. If you have never studied the history of medicine before, you might guess the right answers and you may think that being given a test on something you have never studied before would be a colossal waste of time. But studies show this to be wrong. Getting the wrong answers alters how we think about the questions we are asked. When for example we get multiple choice questions wrong and then shown the right answer, we are far more likely to remember that information.
This may sound counter intuitive but the effects of pre-testing are hugely beneficial. In one study a group was given a pretest on a topic about which the seemingly knew little. They, not surprisingly performed badly. However, when they took the final test they outperformed all other groups, including one that had been allowed to memorise the test questions! It seems that the act of unsuccessfully trying to answer questions has a greater learning effect than studying the questions on which you are to be tested.
It also seems that just guessing on the pretest leads to real learning gains too. It is essential that the proper answers are given, but once they are time and time again the guessing group outperforms all other groups in any final test. Why might this happen? It might be that the act of generating our own guess involves us more and leads to greater attention. It might be that making mistakes alerts us to our own ignorance. When we know we don’t know, are we more likely to learn? Whatever the reason it appears that it is immensely powerful. It could also be that in trying to generate an educated guess we are really applying bits of old knowledge, making mental connections, some half-forgotten memories and because we are not expected to know the answers means we are more likely to give it a go. It removes the fear of failure. We will therefore remember the answers more too. Teachers are increasingly seeing the power of the pretest both in terms of measuring student progress and in finding out what students already know or have an inkling about. Professor John Hattie in his book, Visible Learning states that his research shows that on average students already know 40% of topics that are about to be taught. Clearly all this information means that it is important for teachers to be able to pretest students and then test them at the end of a unit using the same test. Using pretests yields great results.
By the way the answers to the questions are B and C. When I see you, I will ask you again. The chances are you will never forget!
Last week I thanked my lucky star that I had been fortunate enough to land a ticket to watch Madonna in concert in HK. The concert was miles away and we drove through the rain but the show was worth it for sure. She certainly played for way more than 4 minutes. I can’t say that I am a die-hard fan, maybe borderline at best. Now don’t tell me that you don’t like her or never heard of her, because like many people of my age she remains an iconic part of our lives. It is certainly her music and her persona that people cherish.
There are several things that mark her out as being always in vogue. One is obviously her longevity in the incredible and competitive field of popular music and culture. In fact it seems that she has always been a kind of sound track to our lives. For a start she certainly did not look her age (around 57).She must have inherited some good genes from her mother and father. She can teach us a lot about change and how to manage it on a personal level. She has reinvented herself many times. In the early part of her career she was a real trendsetter, totally into the groove. Now she has adapted and she has been able to move with the times and not become a bad girl, but a genuine superstar, a ray of light for us all. She has an uncanny knack of knowing when to take a break, a kind of holiday, if you will, and when exactly to return and take a bow. She certainly is very resilient and can teach us about taking advantage of opportunities.
The second thing that I admire and that I’ll remember about her is her amazing creativity. The show was a tour de force of songs, dance, music, theatre, audience participation. It was a sheer celebration of a show and the number of highly talented people on display was breathtaking. Behind the scenes there was an army of people, some girls and some boys who were working in marketing, lighting, sound, merchandising to mention just a few. On stage Madonna’s advice to everybody was summed up in one simple phrase, ‘express yourself.’ This is great advice when applied to school and it appears in many forms.
Recently I have attended the primary Mandarin assembly and I have been thoroughly impressed by the art exhibition which showcases art from both streams: clear example of a masterpiece in the making. I have seen great pieces of artwork all over the primary school too. Our students know how to be creative, and so do most of our teachers, those that aren’t promise to try and you can’t ask for more than that!
Another area of life that she has arguably influenced is that of promoting the image of a strong and in control woman. She has always had a great sense of what it feels like to be a girl in the modern world. In fact the deeper and deeper that you examine her influence many have likened her to a modern day Joan of Arc. Her critics have accused her of being a girl gone wild, but her advocates say that she has been misinterpreted and that she merely has a rebel heart. I think that she has been instrumental in ‘turning up the radio’ on women’s rights, a true blue women’s role model. Obviously at school it is important for us to uphold the values of equality and tolerance and to get together and fight racism and sexism to name but two.
In conclusion, I do realise that not everyone will share my views, that’s just human nature. I also understand that as she gets older some girls even might ask of Madonna, who’s that girl? I say to those that don’t like or respect her, it would be crazy for you to ignore her influence and that you need to open your hearts and give her one more chance. I don’t need to justify my love for her, she is definitely not my best friend, I’m sorry but there is clearly no substitute for love as the audience proved. As we left I felt a little sad, the power of goodbye I guess. However, what cheered me up that night was that the voices of everybody were as one- they felt Madonna had conquered HK and just like Caesar himself she could justifiably live to tell the phrase, ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici.’
As you may have heard we welcomed Sugata Mitra to school last week where he worked with students, parents and teachers in helping them understand his Self-Organized Learning Environments. (SOLE) The theory and the practice behind SOLE are very interesting. During a SOLE lesson the teacher starts off by working with the students to formulate a question. Something which is interesting, it could be curriculum or syllabus based or indeed not. Once the question has been agreed upon, the students then work in groups of around 4 people. They have access to one computer screen per group. They have typically about 25-30 minutes to formulate an answer to the question. They are encouraged to use the internet judiciously and also to collaborate both within the groups but also outside the groups. The students effectively learn from each other. Once the time is up then each group presents its findings to the question to the whole of the class. Ideas are built upon and improved, questions are asked and answered usually by the students themselves with little input from the teacher: minimally invasive teaching. The results are quite amazing in many areas. Motivation levels are high as the students are placed at the centre of the process, not at the periphery. Engagement levels are high as the questions set are usually interesting, authentic and relevant. Understanding is also very high. And this is where the technique wins out in three key ways according to his research. The first way is that in control tests against groups taught in the more traditional way the SOLE groups score more highly. The second way is that when the SOLE groups are tested later they often actually score higher than when they were first tested, remarkable results! The third positive is that students start to perform at levels way above their age. For instance he has worked with year 3 students who were able to understand and retain work aimed at IGCSE students (age 16).
Watching him in action was great, but picking his brain while he was talking to the teachers and at other down times was equally edifying. He put forward some interesting ideas. He said that teachers must think more widely about their students. He claims that students are as knowledgeable as them plus their phone or device. He gave two examples. He said that 5 years ago when he came to HK, he did not know the way to the airport. Now he said that he, plus his phone, now knows the way to the airport. He gave a second example of a phone app which when you point your phone at say Japanese can translate the Japanese into English. Therefore he postulated that you plus your phone can read Japanese. He also said that he had had an encounter with Arthur C Clarke who had basically told him that a computer should be seen as a prosthetic for the brain, as glasses are a prosthetic for the eyes. It would be unimaginable for students to be told that they couldn’t wear glasses for an exam, therefore why do we stop students from being able to access the internet for examinations. He quoted the example of Denmark whose system allows the use of internet during exams. He went on to say that the exam system is an outdated concept as it currently stands, as a construct of the 19th century it is no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century. He also said that one of the problems that educationalist face is that everyone has been to school and therefore has an opinion, and people want it to be the same as when they went to school, but he made a very good point by asking this question. Would people want to drive around in the same cars that their grandads did? People have got to embrace change and be open to the fact that the world has moved in the most fundamental and profound ways.
Having him in school provoked lots of discussion and ideas. He was very giving in terms of his time, ideas and we would be delighted to welcome him back should time allow. The next trainer we will have in to school will be Ian Gilbert who will be working with some upper primary and lower secondary groups.
On a totally separate note I would like to thank Dr. Alastor Coleby for teaching geography in Mrs Hall’s absence and to Mr Ross Burgmann for stepping up and carrying out Mrs. Hall’s IB coordinator duties. Thanks to them and Kung Hei Fat Choi to all!!
Yesterday at about 9.20 I burst into a year 8 class unannounced followed by a reporter, a camerawoman and other people in tow. The surprised teachers (Mme Leonard and Mr. Williams) took the intrusion in their stride, the students looked a little confused, then as they saw that the camera was out and that they stood a chance of having their photo taken there was a lot of preening and combing and surreptitious mirror checking! The reason for invasion soon became clear to the class and we had some great photos taken. For the previous hour the reporter had been grilling M. Soulard, M. De Surville and myself about the school. At the moment there is clearly a buzz out there about FIS. It seems that the main reason is obviously the brand new campus being built at TKO and there was a lot of talk around that. However, the thing that really piqued the reporters’ interest was when I talked about our service learning programme that we are starting to develop at the school. I was interviewed by another magazine earlier this week and the thing that really attracted her was the fact that we are doing learning without walls and that we were doing many of these projects in Hong Kong.
This week in an assembly, the secondary school launched their CAS (creativity, activity and service) week: week without walls. In it the school presented 5 service learning activities, four of which were based in Hong Kong. In the last edition of the blog I talked about the importance of student well-being and that being a far greater indicator of success in adult life than anything else. One of the key tenets of service learning is that students should participate in it for their personal growth and as a contribution to society. Psychologists have identified these activities as boosting people’s sense of well-being. I love the idea of schooling without walls. The two traditional restraints (time and place) are being eroded, but schools have been slow to adapt to those changes. A student spends around 15% of their year in school. This means that the vast majority of their learning takes place outside school, most notably, the family, the community, with peers and using social media. So learning is available 24/7 in ways that were unthinkable when parents were growing up. The restraint of place is being eroded too. Any definition of an international school, or internationalism is laced with references to international understanding, but importantly should promote immersion experiences in other countries and cultures. So that means by definition leaving the classroom.
Students need to be given a deep understanding of why they should be involved in service learning. It leads to the development of the whole child, beyond the academic learning into applied knowledge and personal conduct. Students need to become involved in service learning to internalise the values of the school and carry them out in real life situations in a profound way service learning is at the heart of what it means to be human. It develops values like humility, empathy, open-mindedness, commitment and leadership. The school has been committed to service learning through the year 12 CAS trip. It is our aim to make the service learning more profound and durable. The school wants to move students on from the ubiquitous bake sale to understanding key reasons for key situations, to awareness raising, but then crucially, action taking. The great thing about service learning too is that it is reciprocal. The positives for the students are multiple, personal growth, long term commitment, respectful attitudes. On the other side of the coin, those directly benefitting from service learning are having the spotlight shone on issues, getting help and support and seeing that in Hong Kong, as someone explained to me, ‘it is not just about privileged kids doing privileged things.’ On a personal note I am looking forward to taking part in this week myself and celebrating it on the final day of the academic year. I would also like to publicly thank Rachel Leonard for the tireless work that she has put in to making this week happen. Thank you!
General information on the different proposed trips / activities can be found here .