By David Hicks, Headteacher, Fairview International School, Bridge of Allan. Career leading 4 IB Schools internationally and a former member of the IB Regional Council for Africa, Europe and the Middle East. 

FOR educators, the challenge of trying to forecast the future requirements is one that is ever present in our minds. 

Education is indeed focussed on the creation of futures through personal development in skills and knowledge. While the past year has undoubtedly presented challenges too extensive to address individually within this scope, the only constant is that the future will continue to present uncertainty for some time to come. Educators have spoken of 21st Century skills and the 4Cs for some time now: Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration. Indeed, recent times have shown the importance of each of these skills. However, we have also been shown the need for Care, Compassion, Resilience and Adaptability. 


As a candidate school, planning to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB), situated in the heart of Scotland, our focus is upon the holistic growth of each student in our care. An IB education is underpinned by ten key attributes: the IB Learner Profile. Attributes such as caring, open-mindedness, being balanced and being reflective feature as significantly as other more academic traits. Indeed, in a 2020 interview with TES, the IB Director General, Dr Siva Kumari, stated that “education cannot carry on as before, but must become more skills orientated rather than solely knowledge based”.

This clear message sets a tone and direction for the future at a time like never before. Students of today have access to a wealth of information at their fingertips, and are already more skilled in navigating the technological landscape than many of their parents and in some cases their teachers.  In the current challenging climate of remote online learning this has possibly tested the parents and teachers as much as the students! 

With such immediate access to information online, it is discerning this information, understanding its value and using it appropriately with thought and consideration that are of greater importance in the modern world than the traditional regurgitation of learned information. This approach, to focus upon discerning and applying information demands higher order thinking skills: the ability to think critically and to understand the thinking process, what we refer to as meta-cognition. It also requires students to be able to research effectively and to question what they find, as well as to communicate their thinking to others. 

If we agree upon the importance of these skills then how do we assess them? How do we measure a student’s ability to think, to discern, and to apply? This leads us to possibly the most radical opportunity available to us all at this time. With many examination sessions cancelled for the second successive year, we are presented with an opportunity to revisit the way students are assessed. 

The case has long been made for a change to the current assessment model. One solution could be modelled upon recently developed online assessments such as those pioneered within the IB Middle Years Programme. Assessments which provide rich multimedia stimuli, opportunities for dynamic modelling and much more; allowing us to evaluate and assess how students interpret, apply and connect knowledge presented in various formats, therefore providing an assessment scenario much more similar to life and the workplace than traditional pen and paper. Equally, a revived focus upon continuous assessment and project-based learning is a step in the right direction, enabling students to illustrate learning over time and for teachers to evaluate the process as well as the outcome. Ultimately, measuring the student’s learning journey and the skills applied along the way.

Surely, as we return to a new normal in the wake of the recent pandemic, mindful of its significant impact upon so many of our young learners, we are given the opportunity to reflect upon our practice in many areas. And, while we all wait with anticipation for our return school and to a sense of normality and familiarity, there is a likelihood that things will not be quite the same, and possibly, neither should they.

HeraldScotland: David Hicks, Headteacher, Fairview International School, Bridge of Allan. Career leading 4 IB Schools internationally and a former member of the IB Regional Council for Africa, Europe and the Middle East.David Hicks, Headteacher, Fairview International School, Bridge of Allan. Career leading 4 IB Schools internationally and a former member of the IB Regional Council for Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

In short, alongside our focus upon providing an education which develops the skills needed for young learners preparing for the world ahead of them, we also have the opportunity to review the traditional emphasis upon a one-stop final examination, not only in light of the significant impact of recently cancelled exams, but equally because, in most respects, it does not reflect life beyond school and university in our modern, ever-changing and currently uncertain world. I therefore urge those with the power to do so to grasp this opportunity for change.

As one of only a very few schools to offer the IB across multiple age groups in Scotland, our families cherish the value that principled, international minded education gives to their children, developing them both now and for their future success. 

To find out more about the International Baccalaureate at Fairview International School, come and Explore with us at one of our virtual open days available throughout the year 

HeraldScotland: Come and explore Fairview International School.Come and explore Fairview International School.

This article appears as part of The Herald's The Future Of Education campaign, in association with Fairview International School.

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