How valuable is an international education?
Last year ACS Hillingdon’s school community was awarded the Council of International School’s (CIS) International Accreditation – the only school in Europe and just one of five worldwide to receive the award.
The accreditation highlights the school’s commitment to embedding an international approach in the curriculum, in extra curricular activities and in every facet of school life. It was my pleasure to hang the school’s accreditation mark in pride of place!
In today’s globally mobile world it is essential that our students, the workforce of tomorrow, develop an international mindset with skills to collaborate and work alongside worldwide-based teams.
An international approach to teaching and learning
At ACS Hillingdon, many different nationalities are represented amongst the student and teaching body ensuring a truly international approach to learning. In class students influence one another through their own life experiences, as Miho Wakai, a recent Hillingdon graduate now studying physics at Kings College London, explains:
“At ACS Hillingdon you meet so many people from different nationalities, you hear an alternative viewpoints on topics we study in class, which helps broaden the mind. My closest friend is from Egypt and during the Arab Spring, she was able to give me an almost local perspective on what was happening there.
“Because we are all able to share our different life and education experiences from across the world, you find that you develop a truly international perspective.”
Importantly, classes cover curriculum subjects from multiple viewpoints, often reflecting the make up of the student body which could often include British, German, Dutch, Argentinian, Russian, Israeli, Japanese and Qatari, to name a few, in one class. The mixture alone ensures a different approach to teaching core subjects, encouraging students to develop a sense of global citizenship.
Globally recognised qualifications
Globally recognised qualifications, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) and Advanced Placement (AP) Programme, ensure students are equipped with an international mindset and skills highly desired by employers.
The IBDP marries a challenging academic approach to education with a global viewpoint and aims to embed a life-long curiosity to learn in students, nurturing a broad appreciation of many different cultures – otherwise known as international mindedness. The programme’s philosophy encourages students to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective – all attributes needed in a constantly changing world.
Nurturing students holistically, the qualification helps to develop fundamental skills, such as research, time-management and communication aptitudes, needed not just at university but in the workplace. The importance of these attributes to young people is reflected in the ACS International Schools annual survey of UK university admissions officers, where the IBDP is routinely cited as the qualification providing the best preparation for university.
Similarly the AP programme is highly valued by American universities as AP courses are taught at higher education level; as a result students gain credit in their first year at university, giving them a head start with their degree. The work ethic students develop during the AP programme and skills, such as time management and organisation, is highly valued by both university lecturers and employers alike.
International mindedness across school life
However it is not just in class and through the curriculum that students develop and benefit from an international mindset. Many students develop ‘international mindedness’ through participation in extra curricular activities such as Model United Nations, which requires students to present and articulate knowledgeably on world issues.
International projects such as the school partnerships in Namibia and Nepal or through the Orbis internship on board the flying eye hospital, which delivers vital eye-care to disadvantaged communities, also provides opportunities for students to put their awareness of local and global issues into practice.
Project Nepal 2016
It is the entire school community’s approach to adopting an international mindset that stood out as part of the CIS accreditation process. For example the Lower School Council, which has won the CIS ‘International Student’ award for the last three years, works across different year groups promoting global citizenship. The students, alongside staff and parents, plan fundraising projects such as Spirit Week, where the school community dresses up to support two organisations, Comic Relief and The Wildlife Aid Foundation.
By embedding international mindedness into every day life, students develop a worldwide perspective, increased understanding of other cultures and sense of global citizenship. It’s these qualities that students need to make a difference on the world stage.