“Fireman? OK lets go with the fireman outfit.” My son agrees with a big toothy grin.
It struck me that choosing a costume for my 2 year old is much easier than educating him for a future 20 years from now. Will firemen still exist then? How about doctors or lawyers? Should I prepare him for a professional or vocational career? At the rate the world is changing, I couldn’t anticipate a future 5 years from now, let alone 20 years into the future. So how should we prepare our children for a world we cannot predict?
Here is where conventional wisdom must be challenged; cramming our children with facts, preparing them for professions we assume will guarantee employment (doctors, lawyers, accountants) will only prepare them to survive in our past. Today many doctors refer to online websites for medical advice and accountants depend on software to manage their books. The future, our children’s future, will be incredibly different.
The ideal futuristic educational package is widely debated and complicated, but I will discuss 2 areas at the heart of many parents and how the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme at Fairview International Schools achieve them.
Firstly, our children must possess a vast array of skills, a toolbox for life so that he always has options. Sadly, skill development programmes are often incomplete; skills are often learnt as a by-product of another lesson or limited to a set of “core” skills. In the IB programmes taught at Fairview International Schools, a comprehensive set of skills (collectively named Toolbox@FIS) ranging from thinking, social, communication, self-management, research, leadership and affective skills have been carefully mapped to every class so that skills (e.g. situational leadership model of leadership) are taught both explicitly in workshops and implicitly during subject lessons.
Secondly, our children must grow to be internationally minded global citizens who are able to recognize their responsibility towards our world and act with integrity to create a more peaceful and harmonious future. The building of ethically minded individuals cannot be accomplished with weekly moral classes or fragmented campaigns that remind us to behave well only to be ignored as soon as we leave the room. The IB programmes at Fairview International Schools are guided by a set of 10 Learner Profiles, such as to be “open-minded” and “principled”. They are meaningfully woven into the fabric of each class that is taught so that the concept of poverty for example is taught in the same lesson as being “reflective” or for the concept of gene mutation and abortion to be taught with the learner profile “caring” in mind, that students act with empathy, compassion and respect.
An IB class is unique. Where most educational systems teach knowledge, skills and values in 3 separate classes, an IB class intentionally, systematically and skilfully fuses the three so that learning, skill development and character growth happen together in a meaningful way. The answer to our children’s future lies not in our ability to teach our children what to think but why and how to think.
By Dr Vincent Chian, Principal of Fairview International School KL