By GTL Staff :: Global Thought Leadership :: 4th June
Delegates at the recent excellent annual conference in London held by COBIS (Council of British International Schools) enjoyed – amongst other fascinating sessions – a keynote speech by Professor Guy Claxton, and his messages are worth reflecting on in the context of transnational and international education particularly.
Professor Claxton has spent a lifetime in education, notably in the field of cognitive science, and he is the co-creator and co-developer of a framework he terms ‘Building Learning Power’. His premise is that in order to engage effectively with the world, human beings need to develop a range of skills and also dispositions. Resilience, resourcefulness, reciprocity and reflection – these are all essential aspects of learning in the complex world of risk and change that we inhabit; and, they are all, too, aspects which teachers can actively develop in young people. Our collection of characteristics and abilities will increase if they are deliberately targeted, encouraged and nurtured, and the learner will as a result become more successful at interacting with others and with the wider world, leading in turn to a more satisfying and meaningful life ahead.
These ‘4 Rs’ are very familiar to educators working within the British International Schools represented by COBIS (of which there are several hundred). Resilience, resourcefulness, reciprocity and reflection have all earned their place over the centuries as cornerstones of a British education, both in the development of all-round character and in the expansion of cognitive skills – the ability to think critically and insightfully about issues, and to deliberate before reaching measured conclusions. Guy Claxton’s research is building upon well-established ground. A recent poll by INTO, reported on by The Pie News, showed a significant rise in the number of Chinese and Indian secondary school students seeking a place at a school in the UK and US, and their motivations resonate with the core qualities of ‘learning power’, of accessing the best of this approach to education. As Tim O’Brien, vice-president of INTO, puts it, “ …the strength of the Chinese economy is such that Chinese students are not looking to migrate for employment opportunities; rather they are looking for an education and wider experience which gives them a broader perspective on the world and enhances their employability when they return to China,”
And yet – buyer beware. It takes time and active teaching strategies to develop these learning skills; quick fixes are rarely possible, and effort needs to go into bridging cultural difference, building on strengths, and preparing learners to make the most of their experience internationally. This, of course, international schools, delivering a transnational education, are uniquely well-placed to do.
In analysing the 2013 Overseas-Returned Graduate Recruitment Report and university statistics, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that one in four Chinese students attending Ivy League universities in the U.S. end up dropping out. Reasons cited were that while students exhibited high academic achievement in their home country, “many found it difficult to adjust and adapt to the new environment, … [and experienced] … problems like language barriers and differences in the education system.” If those students had spent their formative primary and secondary years at an international school in China itself, the dropout rate could conceivably have been much lower, with all the positive benefits that this would have brought. International schools are successful for their students because they provide them with the best of both worlds during very formative years in their lives – an international outlook and curriculum which they can access in their nurturing home environment. Each culture has its own distinctive perspectives, and the growing number of international schools from a variety of areas of the world is welcome. As for the British international schools, as Professor Claxton reminded them at the COBIS conference, they have an enormous amount to offer the young people of this world.