Schooling for all: the broader meaning of education
Based across 4 sites in The Hague, The British School in The Netherlands (BSN) is one of Europe’s largest and most longstanding British international schools.
When talking about learning, many people will use the terms "education" and "school" interchangeably. And, indeed, school is all about education but not all education is about school.
There is much that has been written about the purpose of education but this often gets confused with the purpose of school. Children generally attend school between the ages of 4 and 18, for a total of about 1.200 hours each year.
By the time they reach 18, they will have only spent about 14 percent of their life in school - not very much in reality. Education continues for the rest of our lives.
Developing people for all parts of society
If you ask parents, the consistent answer given is that they want their children to grow up happy and fulfilled. However, there are quite differing views as to what defines "happy". If you ask society, then you can get a more concise answer.
We need children who will develop into leaders; who will make or grow things; who will sell things; who will be innovators and inventors; who will maintain a just society and uphold rights; who will be diplomats and help us avoid conflicts; who will entertain us; who will care for us and offer us compassion and comfort; and who are willing to do those jobs that are essential but most of us would not want to do.
How can international schools contribute to this goal?
The obvious answer is by providing the framework for academic excellence. This does not necessarily mean a string of top grades, but rather excellence for the individual through achieving their potential.
An important part of this is giving the students access to qualifications that are recognised around the world, as well as ones that match the child’s style of learning.
Different paths to success
At the The British School in The Netherlands, this is achieved by offering different pathways at the top of the school through the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP) and the A Levels. All three routes offer access to universities worldwide, but each have a very distinct learning and teaching style.
However, school is not just about exam results. In order to prepare students for the life society requires of them, then there need to be opportunities for development beyond the confines of the formal classroom setting.
Creating well-rounded future citizens
It's also important to be able to participate in activities such as drama, sport, music and debating. The curriculum for 14 to16 year olds at the BSN includes an Enrichment Programme where students can opt to study subjects ranging from Classical Studies, through Sport or Dance Leadership to Textiles, or Finance and Business Skills.
These are not subjects that lead to an exam qualification but they allow students to extend themselves and develop as learners. Beyond this, there are numerous bands, choirs, sport teams, school productions and other extra-curricular clubs that the students can participate in at lunchtime and after school.
Diversity as a positive learning environment
Students at the BSN are also able to benefit from learning alongside an internationally diverse student body. At a time when the world can appear to be increasingly divided along ethnic and religious lines, the values of openness, understanding, curiosity and acceptance instilled through working and learning alongside students from other nationalities and cultures become hugely important.
There are more than 80 different nationalities represented across the BSN. That means 80 different views of the world, 80 different sets of cultures and traditions, 80 different perspectives on world history. By learning together we teach our children true tolerance and respect, that another person’s view isn’t wrong, it’s just different.
Learning never ends, school is just the beginning
School is just one small part of a person’s education that happens within a very limited timeframe and one that aims to give students the skills and knowledge to cope with not only the familiar but also the new.
Schools need to instil a love of learning so that each departing pupil continues to seek out and acquire new knowledge and skills throughout their lifetime.