AN INTRODUCTION TO EXCELLENCE NATIONS MUST COOPERATE AND COMMUNICATE TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY
The challenges, successes and failures of education worldwide capture hearts and headlines. While few would deny that education should be a basic human right in the 21st century, or fail to acknowledge the social, political and economic strength that education engenders, the global reality is that there are still children not receiving even basic schooling. Instead, there are opposites, with a raft of education opportunities in richer states contrasting with a dearth of provision in some of the poorest. The aim in these latter areas, at least in the first instance, is for structured, accessible, considered and free schooling. Meanwhile, educational establishments throughout the UK and in most Western societies seek to prove their worth by battling their way up the international league tables. Tied in with this is a continual reassessment of education practices. The UK and other governments are keen to measure academic performance at all stages, from formative nursery education to targeted professional development, continually striving for educational ‘excellence’. As debates abound over how standards can be measured, particularly when making international and crosscultural comparisons, it is important to ask what this notion of ‘excellence’ entails. As the UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, said in January 2011: ‘In the world of education, by definition, the quest to improve never ends’. Leading custom publisher St James’s House and the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) have worked together to produce this book, which explores and celebrates education today. This publication provides an insight into initiatives worldwide that seek to extend and improve teaching and learning. Some of these impact on a number of nations – such as UNESCO’s global partnership to boost education for girls and women. Others outline projects within a single country.
The pursuit of excellence should be a continuous aim for schools and universities, if ‘excellence’ means offering young people the best-possible opportunities, producing graduates with the skills required by industry, and building a society in which individuals are able to think creatively, insightfully and critically. To achieve this, education providers must refresh their practice in light of government priorities, international issues and emerging ideas. This guide examines these factors. Within these pages, there’s a focus on best practice in education, looking at the University of Cambridge, which topped the QS World University Rankings in 2010–11 and 2011–12, as an example of a unique and thriving template. Recent UK government policy, practice and reviews of school and university systems are also examined. Taking a broader look at the global picture, this guide also outlines models of education in Western society and examines initiatives to improve provision in the world’s poorer nations. Meanwhile, the guide looks at what lies in store for the scholars of today. As they move from education to work, what should Britain’s graduates look for in an employer? By outlining inspiring stories, forward-thinking initiatives and models of good practice, this book aims to reflect on global strengths and challenges. It also highlights areas in which everyone can seek to improve policy and provision, on an institutional, national and international level. Funding, as ever, is a key issue, and one that can often make or break opportunities. But in the face of global recession, educational excellence must remain a priority. If institutions worldwide share ideas, address inequality and strive to improve, together they can work towards opportunity for all and aim for the highest-quality teaching at all levels and in all nations.
“EXCELLENCE SHOULD BE A CONTINUOUS AIM FOR SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES, OFFERING YOUNG PEOPLE THE BEST-POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITIES, PRODUCING GRADUATES WITH THE SKILLS REQUIRED BY INDUSTRY”
CHAPTER SIX /
INNOVATORS IN EDUCATION ST. GEORGE’S SCHOOL OF MONTREAL IS A CO-EDUCATIONAL PRIVATE ESTABLISHMENT THAT HAS BEEN DESIGNATED A MCGILL UNIVERSITY PARTNER SCHOOL AND A LEADING INSTITUTION BY THE QUEBEC MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
Progressive education has defined St. George’s School (for ages 5–17) since it was established in 1930 by three prominent Montreal families. ‘The school’s founding principles still guide our forward-looking pedagogical thinking, curriculum and philosophy today,’ says Head of School James Officer. The highly acclaimed faculty at St. George’s is engaged in cutting-edge, action-based research, which is then applied in the classroom. The faculty is often called upon to present their innovative and highly successful teaching strategies to other schools and school boards at local, national and international educational conferences. ‘Our aim is to foster a scholastically enriched, self-disciplined and independent learner; a caring and sensitive individual in tune with the challenges of living in an increasingly complex society, and one who is well prepared to meet the rigour of the most demanding post-secondary experience,’ explains Mr Officer. Students’ individual strengths, interests and passions are first recognised and then fostered. The school’s recently established Centre for Learning Enrichment provides an environment for individual student support and the creative application of recent cognitive research and its implication for best practices in teaching and learning. A COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT ‘According to our most recent parent survey, the top reasons why parents choose St. George’s are for its philosophy and teaching methods, and its positive, comfortable and nurturing environment,’ Officer says. A key St. George’s strength is the small class sizes in both the elementary and high school. The integration of technology and media into the daily curriculum, as emphasised by the school’s laptop programme and wireless environment, is an important factor in the development of students’ creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration skills.
As well as following the Quebec curriculum, an international programme attracts students from all over the world, preparing non-English native speakers for further studies. ‘Our students also participate in a wide array of curriculumrelated field trips and real-life experiences that are meant to enhance their day-to-day classroom learning,’ adds Officer. Every high school student interacts daily with a mentoring teacher, a practice that enables them to become self-reliant and responsible learners while encouraging solid communication, both formal and informal, between faculty, students and parents. ENRICHMENT PROGRAMMES St. George’s currently offers 62 different extra- and co-curricular activities to its 450 students. The school’s off-campus education programme provides adventurous activities such as fencing, zip-lining, rock climbing, martial arts and dragon boating, all designed to further students’ exposure to and experiences of athletics, culture, community, health and fitness. The school also has a very robust visual and media arts programme that encourages students to explore many different artistic passions such as drawing, painting, sculpting, ceramics, photography, video, theatre arts and choir. As Montreal’s oldest co-educational independent school, St. George’s is known for its high-quality progressive education, which is firmly based on the individual engagement of students and the dedication, creativity and professionalism of its faculty and staff.
“INNOVATIVE AND HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL TEACHING STRATEGIES” CREATIVE THINKING Students participate in a wide array of curriculum-related field trips and real-life experiences
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