“Real education has to draw out the best from the boys and girls to be educated". - Mahatma Gandhi
Dr Murray Tod was educated at Daniel Stewart’s and Melville College in Edinburgh, before attending the University of Glasgow to study a MA in History, Politics and Philosophy, and later a PhD in Scottish Medieval History. With a wealth of experience from his first two Headships, and background in the UK and internationally, Dr Tod regards himself as first and foremost a committed boarding schoolmaster and is excited to uphold the distinct values of a Wellington education.
As the world gradually emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that the importance of children receiving a fulfilling and vibrant education has never been higher. The swift transition to online learning in early 2020, for so many young people across the globe, undoubtedly ushered in innovative approaches and technological advancement. However, it is also evident that school communities yearned for the return of face-to-face learning and for all the positives that real social interaction engenders. Indeed, that perspective is encapsulated in the desire for schools to promote a ‘holistic education’, one which offers an all-encompassing approach to learning and teaching, with educators addressing the broad needs of the pupils (socially, ethically and academically) in an integrated programme.
Of course, for all parents and pupils, in India and internationally, the quality of education and the outcomes achieved remain pivotal. Within any holistic approach, the academic results are testament to the quality of that provision; academics are integral to holisticism. High achieving schools take pride in the breadth and depth of their curriculum, the quality of its teaching staff and focus on equipping pupils with the skills — and the desire — to become life-long independent learners. Pupils and parents now desire a greater focus on active and experiential learning, involving quality teacher-student interaction, and the employment of digital schooling and virtual classrooms to improve the overall experience of learning and teaching. Ultimately, academic life should be at the forefront of every pupil’s time at school: it is the foundation on which all else is built.
However, within the Indian context, it is clear that parents and pupils also aspire for a life beyond simply academic outreach, important though that is. This is also central to the vision of high-quality international education, within an Indian setting. Examination achievement is, of course, a crucial condition for academic success but a further aspect of a school’s mission should be to encourage pupils to try new things, to help them stay physically and intellectually healthy, and to guide them in the discovery of lifelong interests and opportunities for self-expression. All these contribute enormously to the growth of truly rounded, balanced individuals, preparing them more fully for the world beyond school. In fact, it is often in the co-curricular programme that many pupils find their passion and learn to develop new skills, be they intellectual, cultural or athletic. Whether athletic or academic, a spirit of friendly competition is essential to personal growth by fostering a sense of pride in the community. In Sports, Foreign Languages, Debating, or indeed Mathematics, all pupils require the opportunity to build character and self-confidence by putting their skills and abilities to the test.
That said, a quality education should not be confined to what is learned solely on campus. An international schooling in India allows one to be immersed in this wonderful culture, whilst providing global outreach to the pupil body. Truly international schools exist to offer exceptional opportunities for pupil exchange programmes and a plethora of educational excursions throughout the world. These activities push pupils outside of their comfort zone, paying lasting dividends on their success in academics and life. Moreover, they cultivate curiosity, self-confidence, and leadership skills and make memories and lasting friendships. As attributed to W.B. Yeats, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’, aptly illustrating that the true goal of education is to teach one to contemplate matters, to think, both passionately and critically. In this way, international education embeds a distinct focus on research, critical thinking and conceptual learning, with pupils also encouraged to become part of larger community-driven projects.
These are core values in an international education and we should strongly encourage all pupils to develop their independence and confidence. The success of this approach can be glimpsed in the university attainment of international schools, with pupils frequently gaining Oxbridge places and entry to first-class US institutions such as Harvard, Brown, Yale, Berkeley, Stanford and MIT. Increasingly, Indian parents aspire that their children will gain an “international standard” of education, with all the advantages to studying in India, facilitating opportunities for admission to a quality university overseas.
A crucial component, of course, in any school achievement, individual or collective, lies in the creation of the correct culture at a school. Throughout international schools per se, we strive to embrace opportunity and aspiration, whilst allowing our pupils the independence to forge their own path and take responsibility for pursuing academic excellence. In holistic education too, therefore, a key theme involves commending success and highlighting skills, such as overt inquisitiveness and motivation, that allow pupils to achieve the very best results. Of course, a further element required in this concoction, to create the right blend of academic excellence, is environment and international schools are adept at the twinning of inspirational staff to magnificent facilities.
The advantages of a holistic approach to education, within the international sphere, appear far-reaching and enterprising. Ultimately, however, all educators should aspire to a belief, a vision, in the ability of young men and women to challenge themselves, and pursue high level goals in all their endeavours. In this country, schools should prepare pupils to be both Indian and international in outlook, and to embrace all cultures. Whatever one’s perspective and cultural background, it is clear that the educational provision for young people in 2022 must be of paramount significance. Indeed, as a renowned world leader once stated, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. (Nelson Mandela, 2003)