“Developing leadership and critical thinking skills in our young people is as important as knowledge development,” says Stephen Loggie, Principal of Island School (IS), an international secondary school which is part of the English Schools Foundation. “Our school is widely known for its innovative curriculum and its learning beyond the classroom which gives our students the chance to develop their talents and pursue their passions. It has always been a thread in the Island School fabric that students develop their leadership capabilities through taking action in their school, their community and in the wider world.”
Take, for example, 17-year-old Head Girl Bakhita Fung. “I represent the student voice on various councils, in meetings and at events,” she says. “I give a lot of speeches, lead tours and engage with different student groups.” Fung recently organised
the Hong Kong 24-Hour Race, an international event which sees thousands of students from Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur raise money to support the fight against human trafficking. “As executive director, I was in charge of everything from organising schools to getting the local community involved,” she says. “I orchestrated sponsorship from businesses and made sure that the race went smoothly.”
beyond the curriculum
From Year 7 upwards, IS students explore their own interests and passions, running extracurricular activities like debating clubs, a media team and a Model United Nations. “IS definitely prepares students for the future,” says Fung. “It nurtures a good attitude and helps us be ambitious.”
The school is deeply committed to ensuring that students work alongside leading practitioners at the cutting edge of their field. The Island School Alliance is a partnership between the school, local communities, businesses and NGOs. It connects students to opportunities, nurturing their talents to become the next generation of thought leaders. It also allows students to pitch collaborative ideas to business leaders.
One example was the Katja House project in Nepal, which was founded by Island School staff, students and supporters over 20 years ago as a home and education centre for the street children of Kathmandu. “Katja House changes the lives of not only those that live there but all those involved in this rich humanitarian endeavour,” says Loggie. “While the attitudinal impact is profound it also provides a unique and powerful context. Students work together to develop business plans, secure funding streams, manage facility development and solve logistical challenges.”
Kirstin McCosh, a Year 13 student, went to Katja House in November 2017 and again in November 2018. “I decided to go again because it was such an amazing trip,” she says. “When I came back last year I was talking about it non-stop. All the kids were amazing and you develop bonds with them. It opened my eyes up a lot and made me really grateful for what I have. I also learnt about teamwork. All of the fundraising and donations is organised by students – there’s little teacher involvement, it’s just all of us arranging things so I learnt about leadership as well. You leave Katja feeling as though you’ve actually accomplished something and given back to the kids.”
The Alliance is one pathway students take to develop leadership skills while others go and seek them out for themselves. “The culture of innovation here attracts staff who want to help kids pursue their own passions,” says Loggie. “Our students are taught not to fear mistakes but to learn from them. This translates to exceptional learning both inside and outside the classroom.