I enrolled my son into an international school because I myself have experienced education in many different school systems during my childhood and personally I prefer the foreign education system than the local one we have here. I mean no disrespect to our local school system but I wanted him to grow in a different environment. It was a decision I made after weighing a lot of things. If I had a choice...and the resources, I'd put him in a Finnish education system but oh well...
I chose the Fairview International School (FIS) because they used the British system and they were close to my house and work. Logistically I needed to be organised in such a way that it was easy for me to send and pick him up from school without sacrificing too much time away from the office. Furthermore, I wanted him to experience having friends from different backgrounds. And besides, FIS fees were not as exorbitant as some other international schools that I will not mention here.
Two years into school, they changed the syllabus to follow the International Baccalaurette (IB) syllabus. Many parents decided to take their kids out from school due to the fact that the syllabus was harder and the fact the school fees shot up a bit. Maybe it was another way for the school to make money, I don’t know – but that was the response from some disgruntled parents.
Regardless, because I wanted my son to have a secure base and didn’t want to move him around, I stuck to the school, change and all.
I didn’t know anything about IB but fast forward 9 years, I now understand and I’m glad I stayed. I say “I’ as if I was the one going to school nevertheless, I'm glad we did.
THE IB PROGRAMME
According to the IB website, the programme “cultivates critical and independent thinking in children, and how to inquire with care and logic. They prepare students to succeed in a world where facts and fiction merge in the news, and where asking the right questions is a crucial skill that will allow them to flourish long after they’ve left our programmes.”
In 9 years, I’m proud to say that my son is learning what we in the workforce actually do! Observing colleagues I have and used to have, these are information and education that seems to be lacking. I believe teaching public speaking and doing presentations should start at school and not only once they reach university level. I’m bad at both! But my heart swells knowing my son is really good at it - and can give presentations in front of a crowd without even thinking twice since it was taught to them since grade 2!
Being part of the IB system, students are also are involved in group activities where my son has had the opportunity to organise an exhibition, build a solar vehicle that could contribute to the agricultural industry, made videos on different subject matters such as bullying, he has come up with an advertising pitch for a product (for him, of course it was football boots!) and the list goes on.
Their school trips are always full of activity and very educational - contrary to what some boys believe..Trips are mostly to ASEAN countries and I’m glad that my son has had the opportunity to travel with the school and his friends to experience the different cultures and for me most importantly, to develop a camaraderie with his friends. He has been to Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. He has participated in helping communities in planting padi, digging wells, helping out at orphanages, craft making with handicraft sellers. He’s even learnt how to haggle over prices at night markets (I had to google how to before my first trip to Bangkok!)
This is all part of the IB programme and I truly can’t complain considering the real world education concept that is being taught. Not many young people in the workforce have the education in the simpler work related skills i.e crafting up a presentation, people skills or even researching skills. Quite honestly, when I started working 20+ years ago, I had no clue. Everything I knew where theoretical and even that it wasn’t related to what I was doing.
The IB's programme is different from other curricula because they encourage students of all ages to think critically and challenge assumptions. Students are encouraged to think, to understand and to look for information themselves. They are even encouraged to find questions to which even their teachers might not have answers to. In this case, the answers are sought out together. Evaluation does not happen in the form of one final exam, but the pupils themselves participate in it (by, for example, setting personal goals for themselves in the beginning of the school year, or even as often as every week. They are then evaluated together with the teacher at the end of the pre-determined term.). From a very early age, they learn to take responsibility for their learning – and hopefully learn out of inner motivation, not for parents or exams (=outer motivation). Therefore, also cheating in exams is not as common as in some other countries.
My son has a brilliant mind, always testing my thinking on issues, even I at 15 wouldn't have thought about! I'd like to think that part of the contribution of this is what he has learned in school from such a young age. As much as I myself like seeing what he's studying in school and how it relates to the working in the real world, he doesn't know it and considering that he's not in the workforce yet, how could he?
I've let him enjoy many years without putting pressure on him. I didn't want to be that kind of parent - I didnt want to pressure him. I believed that his time will come when he realised how important it was to buckle up and focus on his studies. Not point forcing when he wasn't ready. True enough, past year or so, he's been working hard. Most times, he'll been spending time on subject projects which sometimes seemed endless. The amount of research he needed to do was what university students would do. So I figured at least he'll be prepared for university - it'll be breeze, no real shocker.
THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER
Every child is different and it is difficult to give generic advice. Here are some tips that might help you decide:
Is your child an all-rounder?
If they enjoy a range of subjects, especially in their Middle Years— English, Maths, Science, Languages and Art — then they’ll probably thrive in the IB programme.
Does your child struggle with organisation and time management?
If so, the high levels of organisation and time management required for success in the IB may be a real challenge. Of course, a good school will support your child in building these skills, definitely not Fairview International School.
Does your child enjoy independent research and extended writing?
Regular assignments require in depth research and endless essays. Children develop this at different levels and some may find the heavy written demands of the IB a challenge.
Even with all this, I'm not saying my son hasn't/isn't having his own challenges with this IB system. He still needs to learn to time manage and to focus every time he sits down with school work. Who teaches these? Who teaches how to focus? or how to time manage? In my opinion schools should and maybe some schools do and I applaud them but not Fairview International. It also doesn't help, if the turnover of teaches is so high at this school. Just when students feel a sense of connection with a teacher and vice versa, the teacher is gone. But I'll do a separate post on Fairview - after 10 years, I think I should be able to give an all round honest review.
In my humble opinion, in future, schools should adopt a friendlier approach to education. In every school class in the world, there are pupils who learn things faster than others. And then there are those who don’t. In some systems, kids who don’t learn things as fast as their peers, are forced to repeat a class. In others, parents who are well off, pay for private teachers and classes just so you can pass an exam. As if the exam is going to define who you are. Some kids actually believe that just because they do well on paper they'll do well in life, which is untrue. And on the other hand, those you struggle come home with the thinking that they're stupid, a failure and useless, which is also untrue.
I do hope that our future generation will come up with an education system that does not teach us to discriminate!