From one parent to another : Skills, the Toolbox of life. (3/6)

FairSighted: Skills, the Toolbox of Life

While interviewing some candidates for employment, I asked one of the most commonly asked about topics, “So what do you understand about teamwork and please share how you have demonstrated it in your life?” Most of them answer with phrases like “to work in a team”, “to respect other people’s opinion”, “to delegate tasks”. Often the answers start and end with “umm”.

This led me to think about skill delivery in schools. During open days, their sales staff often say “of course, we teach skills in our programmes”. Okay. Now try scratching beneath the surface by enquiring exactly how the skill is taught.

One educator answered they teach teamwork by having students practice teamwork in class activities regularly. Common answer!

When asked further, I realize that skills are gained along the way, a by-product of the educational experience, placing faith in the accidental accumulation of an attribute that today we know to be critical to our children’s future. Should we place our children’s future in the hands of chance?

At Fairview International Schools, we researched academic scientific literature and compiled a set of models that addresses over 150 skill areas ranging from reflection to time organisation. From this, a comprehensive set of skills were compiled, analysed and then distilled into a unique programme: Toolbox@FIS. For example, when a student learns about leadership in primary school they would learn the basics of leadership, evolving to a model called “situational leadership”. The student may learn more about other, more advanced leadership theories in the future but Fairview aims to ensure that every student will learn the fundamentals in every skill to act as a solid foundation for their future skill development.

The same skill models are then embedded into every subject so that while the skills are taught explicitly in a special class they are also practiced contextually. For example, after a student learns “Belbin’s” teamwork model in a homeroom class, as the student is tasked to complete a Biology group assignment to analyse lung cancer he would be required (and gently reminded) to use Belbin’s teamwork model to complete the assignment. By consistently applying this model of skill development in a structured, systematic and intentional manner over 13 years of education, Fairview students emerge with an unstoppable toolbox of skills, ready to face any future.

A badminton player who has never learnt badminton theory but plays every week can get good at the game but when challenged by another who has been taught the theoretical framework addressing how to hold and swing the racquet, he often finds himself completely outclassed. Learning the theory allows the player to access wisdom of the past, the accumulated knowledge from others that have come before. Skill development should be deliberate, systematic and sustained in schools.

By Dr Vincent Chian, Principal of Fairview International School KL

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