There is general agreement world-wide that ‘Middle School’ is the most challenging age group in boys’ education. There is a lot happening in terms of growth and self-awareness. Boys are leaving behind childhood and forming as adolescents. There is also a sharp lift in academic expectations as they detach from the concrete phase and enter the world of early abstract thinking. Some are very good at this and others will take more time. Some have grown tall and others have yet to shoot up. It is a mixed bag. One can imagine the challenges that teachers face and the importance of managing quite a varied group of boys and expectations. First, we are fortunate to have such an experienced and wise headmaster at the helm. Second, it is also underlines the importance of engaging boys with the right type of curriculum.
With the introduction of Cambridge Secondary 1 in English, Mathematics and Science, we are better preparing boys to tackle the higher levels of Cambridge curricula in C1 to H2 with an enhanced set of skills and learning attitudes. As mentioned previously, we will be gradually introducing the Cambridge IGCSE and Cambridge AS and A levels over the next 3 to 4 years. So there is no misunderstanding or shock, E1 will be tackling the final year of the Cambridge Primary curriculum. This is to satisfy international age suitability and explains why we moved to admit slightly older boys in K1 and above. Equally important, we will have a seamless transition between the three schools’ teaching and learning programmes, especially in core subjects. Shortly, parents will be able to access Cambridge Curriculum through the Parent Portal and see for themselves how informative and user friendly this is.
The matter of languages remains a mild concern. Very few have chosen a language moving into Senior School. Of course, we will continue to offer languages and make certain that one is at least compulsory in Prep School. Mandarin is a special issue that has occupied our thinking and I thank the parents who shared their ideas with me. While we are committed to continuing to offer it in Prep School, I have had extensive discussions on how best to offer this very demanding language -if at all beyond M1. It seems clear that if we do offer it in Senior School, the course must have a university pre-requisite status. This is also acknowledged by the teacher. In this regard, we have decided to offer Mandarin in IGCSE when that international curriculum commences. This study can be taken as a first or second language course. In the meantime, a Mandarin Club has been formed for Fridays and this will offer additional phraseology and cultural studies.
Parents can also expect to see changes in the way we teach and set homework in 2016-17. It will be geared more to unit based inquiry and fashioned through key focus questions with clearer learning outcomes. Computer Science will be improved by integrating it more deliberately into core subjects. We are working toward not simply the acquisition of knowledge but the application of it to problem solving. Indeed, if a boy can understand the concepts embedded in subjects, he will achieve far greater success at school. Teachers have already commenced course modifications and are now participating in professional development under the direction of Dr. Afzal, the British Council and Cambridge. In August, a team from the United Kingdom will complete our induction here at the College.
There will be more occasions set aside for parent gatherings, next year. These will not focus so much on individual boys, but provide a chance for us to get to know one another better. The gatherings will take place in the ‘Old Building.’
Warm wishes to all, and well done to our boys! I wish you all a safe and happy school holiday -with some reading included.