Challenge @ BCIS – Message from the Head of School

Challenge @ BCIS – Message from the Head of School
Challenge @ BCIS – Message from the Head of School

Dear BCIS Parents

I warmly welcome you to the new school year, this, the 15th year in our history. Many students, parents, staff and faculty have passed through our doors since 2005 when we first opened; we remember them fondly and will always welcome them to return to our BCIS family.

This year we have welcomed the highest number of returning students to BCIS ever and, as always, we are delighted to see many new students join us this year. We hope that our new and returning students, and families, will find many ways to connect with each other in these coming weeks and months.

On Monday 5th August, I gave my opening presentation to all of our BCIS staff and faculty in the theatre, a tradition by the Head of School on the first day. One part of the presentation contained a clear message regarding two specific areas of focus for us all this year, directly linked to our BCIS mission, which are 'challenge' and 'sustainability'. I chose these two concepts from the mission because I believe these are the two areas where we can still do more and have clearer understanding and communication. I want to share one of these two points here with you, that being challenge, and the other I will write about in further communication.

Challenge - The BCIS mission is to challenge and empower students to be compassionate and inspired people, who act for the good of all and for the sustainable development of the world.

You, as parents, understandably have questions about learning at BCIS, such as: what is my child learning; how is she learning; is she being challenged in her learning; is the learning rigorous enough; how do I know she is learning what is important to know? These are all important questions that we endeavor to help you understand as soon as we enter our partnership in your child's education.

At BCIS, we make a commitment that we will provide the appropriate level of challenge to all of our students. This is clearly stated in our mission and also in our WÉN XÍNG ZHŌNG XÌN (文行忠信) philosophy. We believe that through challenge children will be successful. But what is the right amount of challenge? Research clearly shows that if the challenge presented is too difficult or too easy, then the intended learning goal most likely will not be reached. Too easy, and students may not be motivated to actively participate. Too hard and students may not have enough perseverance, prior knowledge or the necessary skills to continue independently. Therefore, how do we get the challenge right for each student when we know that each student is different?

It is important that our students understand themselves and how they learn best. We help them to build the confidence to try new things, to challenge themselves and to not be afraid to fail, but to learn from failure. Crucially, they need support and encouragement from those around them, both teachers, peers and parents to be able to face the challenges in learning, and in life. Likewise, our teachers must also know their students well, understand their strengths and areas for growth and plan for the appropriate level of challenge needed. This requires teachers to differentiate learning to ensure we do not have a 'one size fits all' approach to teaching and learning. This also requires teachers to understand and apply research-based teaching strategies and concepts, that they then weave into their short and long term planning. An example of this would be the concept of Lev Vykotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (Vykotsky 1978), which refers to the learner's current ability and the ability they can achieve with the aid of an instructor (teacher, peer, parent). Basically, we work towards that point between what a learner can do independently and what they can do further with the help of someone more skilled or knowledgeable. Research points to working within this 'zone' produces optimal learning – not too hard, not too easy. In this way, a teacher is able to know what a student can achieve with the support of a mediator and then use this information to scaffold the learning for the student to achieve this independently. This is a well-known concept is supported by our collaborative and social learning models at BCIS.

As well as understanding our students' abilities it is important that we know and understand their passions and interests, their readiness for learning and their age-appropriate developmental stages. We must create an environment that is rich for active learning, where students have choice, voice and agency and have the ability, and permission, to direct their own learning.

As we develop new programs at BCIS, as the teachers in our school change over the years, as our curriculum and resources develop and as the world outside changes, we must pay close attention to how we continue to challenge our students and provide the necessary pathways to the best possible learning not only for today, but for continued learning in their futures.

Therefore, as a learning community, we have made a commitment this year to make challenge a focus. We will continue to support our teachers with the necessary tools to provide the appropriate level of challenge to all students as we promote consistency of understanding and practice.

At BCIS, we offer many opportunities for parents to learn more about our philosophy of learning, our curriculum, our teaching and your role in your child's development. There are opportunities to attend Parent As Learners (PAL) workshops, to attend coffee morning talks and Open Houses, to participate in the Student Led and Parent-Teacher Conferences and, of course, through the direct communication with both your child and our teachers. Keep connected to us via the many communication platforms so you are able to join us.

I look forward to engaging with you more throughout the year, sharing our areas of focus and our achievements.