FIRST IN CLASS

Written by root. Posted in BEST OF BRUNEI

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Published on March 10, 2017 with No Comments

Beyond the paper chase, International School Brunei is proving qualities beyond the academics are just as important.

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Dr Steven Geraghty, ISB principal, at the grounds of new campus in Kampong Sungai Hanching.

 

The globalisation of economies and the rise of Asia are fast shaping education in the 21st century. In Brunei Darussalam, where education is generally free, a school has taken to predict the future and moving students away from mere paper chase, readying them for the changes ahead.

International School Brunei (ISB) understands the continuously changing landscape of education. Globalisation means education has become multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual. This diversity of the world is perfectly mirrored in ISB’s diversity of its students. The dynamism and energy of 46 different nationalities working and creating together is a recipe not only for individual growth, but also promoting effective leadership skills and their place in the world economy. “ISB has been providing world class education in Brunei for 53 years now, equipping Bruneian and expatriate students with the skills necessary to take on whatever challenges are presented to them,” says ISB principal, Dr Steven Geraghty. The US Labor Department, he says, predicted two years ago that 65 percent of today’s students will be employed, at some time during their lifetimes, in occupations which don’t yet exist. “No school or examination system can prepare adequately for this. What ISB can do however, is ensure our students are open to new ideas, are good communicators and are prepared to take risks and accept challenges without fear.”

The school continues to strive for academic excellence and high achievement and indeed, its excellent examination results help to move students into the best universities all around the world. But, an ISB student is about much more than examination success. Students will no doubt graduate into a world fundamentally different from the one which many older generation of today grow up in. There are effectively a new set of challenges and adversities to be overcome.

Preparing for digital economy is one such challenge.

Says Dr Geraghty, “The digital economy is about confidence with new technology.” At ISB, he believes it is about developing their students’ unseen skills; open-mindedness, adaptability, collaboration and self-confidence, while able to rise to the challenges that rapid change brings about. “There is a philosophical basis to how ISB retains its USP,” he continues. “ISB’s vision statement is a simple ‘Everyone Excels’. This is not a vision of collective excellence – though it could be if we use examination grades, but instead it relates to an aspiration of each individual’s starting point. We have students with ‘A’ grades across the range whose own target of excellence is an ‘A’ in every subject. Conversely, we have students who come to us because they have extreme social needs difficulties and their stroke of individual excellence may be to speak in a group situation.”

To illustrate the diversity in its approach to education, ISB, for instance actively encourages its students to contribute to CSR and social responsibility. Older students perform service to the local community as an integral part of their qualification requirement. The International Baccalaureate Diploma students cannot pass without performing aspects of service, regardless of their subject results. Presently, many of ISB’s students are mentoring and coaching Year 6 PSR students in selective state schools. They are also involved in a reading recovery scheme in a different selection of schools.

ISB was also the first school in Brunei to start a public household recycling programme. Its much publicised ‘Million Trees Project’ was applauded by Prince Charles as an example of raising awareness of deforestation in Sabah. The school still levies a carbon fee on their travel and events. Recently, students helped to design certain ECO aspects of their new school site. For their efforts, they were awarded the prestigious BCA ‘Greenmark’ Award, the only school in Borneo given the recognition. “We hope that such actions serve to give our students a sense of collective responsibility in the way they will live their lives long after they have left us,” says Dr Geraghty proudly.

ISB is now approaching 1,500 students, with sites in Bandar Seri Begawan and Kuala Belait. The growth in student numbers in the past five years is almost 50 percent, fuelled by investment in a new site and also a rise in examination results to compare with the best non-selective schools in the region. Examination results at both iGCSE/O Level and IB Diploma consistently exceed world averages: up to 90% A-C pass rate at iGCSE/O Level and at age 18, 95 percent of all IB graduates leave to attend higher education all around the world. It continues to diversify its qualification pathways, presenting the chance for its students to move into study areas they have never been able to access in previous years. In addition to areas like sports sciences, psychology and Early Years childcare, ISB is now able to offer tailor-made pathways into engineering, architecture and law.

As a not-for-profit school, ISB keeps their fees as low as possible and admits that attracting teaching talent is not an easy task. However, its new examination records, move to a futuristic 21st century school site in Sungai Hanching and the huge rise in student numbers bode well for its future. Dr Geraghty admits that the longer term challenge for the school is to anticipate world economic trends, forecast on how the demand for international education in the region will develop and continue to offer world class education across a wider and more relevant range of subject areas. “Provided ISB holds tight to its significant central tenet of recognising and providing for the valuable contributions of all students, whatever their challenges are, the future looks bright.”

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