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Holistic Education is Essential…but what does it mean?

Depending on specific careers and lifestyles, certain specific skills are required. For example a professional soccer player requires a different skill set from a Sommelier. Many of skills can be learnt but at times many come naturally to individuals. In general terms, to survive and thrive in today’s world (and probably tomorrows world), we all require a diverse range of skills, experiences and attitudes.

It is very naïve to think that a set of high grades and a good university degree will set you up for life. For sure, these are all required, depending on career choice, but even with careers that require high academic qualifications, other skill sets are required to be successful.

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What’s more important in determining life success—book smarts or street smarts? This question gets at the heart of an important debate contrasting the relative importance of cognitive intelligence (IQ) and emotional (EQ). I was introduced to Daniel Goleman’s Book – Why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) can matter more than IQ as far back as the mid 90’s. From a personal point of view, this revolutionised my life, and a must for everyone.

It is important to note that the development and opportunities to develop and acquire this diverse skill set, should not be the responsibility of the school alone.

In fact, many of the most important life skills are learnt outside of school. In the movie Slumdog Millionaire, the story of Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is a good way to illustrate this idea.

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How could a street kid know so much?

In the past, we would have developed non-academic skills by playing outside; part time jobs; spending time with elderly relatives etc. However, boarding schools were homes as well as schools, maybe that’s why those who attended Boarding Schools hold high positions in government and commerce. Just a thought.

These days a lot of responsibility and expectation is given to schools to not only ensure good academic qualifications but to develop and acquire other skills as well. Skills and experiences that prepare young people, not only to pass exams, but to prepare them for life. Those schools who embrace this philosophy will certainly succeed more than the schools who focus solely on academics.

The term that is widely used for this is Holistic Education.

There are endless opportunities for students to learn new skills; grow a passion and develop character through extracurricular activities. These are a vital to the holistic development of every student. Even as adults, extra-curricular activities are important to maintain a balanced lifestyle with a healthy mind and body. These ECAs will give that extra push which will get your child across the line before anyone else.

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In general, these can be categorised under four areas:

·                 Physical Recreation

·                 Skill Development

·                 Service and citizenship

·                 Adventures and challenge.

All of these have many benefits which include:

·                 Having something in life to enjoy, be passionate about and do for life

·                 A way of networking and making new friends

·                 Giving something back and helping others

·                 Promotes academic performance and work productivity

·                 Develops personal and social skills

·                 Maintaining a positive lifestyle with a healthy mind and body

·                 Impressing universities, colleges and employers

Opportunities and activities. – So what to do? There are many opportunities in and out of school to experience these.

Physical Recreation – Joining a sports team, going to the gym, going for walk, go dancing. The list of sports is very big and there is usually something for everyone. You do not need to compete in a team as there are many opportunities for non-competitive sports.

Skill Development – There are many new skills to try and master. These could include cooking, learning to play a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, learn First Aid, go bird watching, painting, gardening and many more.

Service and Citizenship – This is about giving something back to your local or global community. This could include volunteering time to an organisation such as an animal shelter, youth club or charity shop. You could help organise events for your Church, school or sports club. You could raise funds or collect money to donate to a local or international charity. Represent your school in a competition or a debate. Help coach or look after younger students.

Adventures and Challenge – This may not be for everyone or something you do regularly. Could include an annual ski trip, bungee jump, sky dive or parachute jump. The less challenging could include camping, trekking or kayaking. In school we organise day and residential camps.

At Beaconhouse Newlands International School we provide the following:

Regular School Curriculum – There are opportunities in the curriculum to develop new skills such as learning to speak another language, develop artistic skills, learn to sing and play a musical instrument and develop a range of sports skills. These can all be extended out of school and could be an introduction to a lifetime passion or even a career.

The Personal Development Programme is developed. based on Emotional Intelligence. This is delivered via whole class, timetabled lessons as well as small group and one to one sessions, based on specific student needs. We aim to develop 5 competencies or characteristics, which are:

o  Self-awareness.

o  Self-regulation

o  Internal motivation

o  Empathy

o  Social skills

Our House System allows the students, in teams, to be creative and to collaborate with team mates. We organise House Challenges where every student will have the opportunity to participate and challenge. There are lots of personal development opportunities to develop here including, learning about winning and losing. These include leadership, team work, perseverance, creativity, problem solving to name a few. This is also a great opportunity for citizenship, by volunteering and organising activities.

Our current challenges include paper airplane competition; quiz; sports; art, times tables, singing, performing and spelling competitions.

Citizenship – We are also investigating community projects we can support either by volunteering our time or raise funds for various organisations. At the moment we have a Kindness Club that supports Shelter Home for Children.

Leadership – We are currently developing student leadership opportunities by introducing a Head Boy and Head Girl; House Captains and a Student Council.

After School Programme – We have an extensive after school programme including activities offered by our teachers as well as paid activities from outside that parents pay for. These include sports, school magazine, gardening etc.

Productions & Presentations – Opportunities for students to perform and speak publically. Each year Primary and Secondary produce a production. This year we are looking forward to Mama Mia and The Lion King.

Alongside the academic achievement of students, we are also celebrating the achievement of Personal Development. This term we will introduce a Personal Achievement Portfolio for each student. This will include certificates and awards from school, Regional Office and outside agencies that have been awarded to students. By the time, the students graduate from BNIS, they will have a Record of Achievement that should impress any college or employer.

Duke of Edinburgh International Award & Junior Award Scheme for Schools.

At BNIS the Duke of Edinburgh International Award and Junior Award Scheme for Schools, are an essential component of our educational provision.

Both of these awards encapsulate all the benefits of extra-curricular activities.

JASS (Junior Award Scheme for Schools)

JASS is an accredited learning programme for young people. JASS was first set up in 2010/11 by Friends of the Award in Edinburgh and the Lothians (FOTA) in partnership with City of Edinburgh Council.  JASS is now used in the majority of primary and secondary schools and all special schools run by the Council. JASS has proved to be incredibly popular among both teachers and students and since its launch word has spread and it has now been taken up by more than 150 schools and youth groups throughout the UK. 

JASS develops the whole individual by offering recognition in four key areas – regular physical activity (Get Active Stay Active), exploring a personal interest (My Interests), working for the good of the community or the environment (Me and My World) and completing an outdoor activity or challenge (Adventure). The objectives of JASS are aligned with the personal development objectives of Curriculum for Excellence and the National Curriculum and the scheme has been designed to have different levels of achievement so that participants can move from Bronze, to Silver and then to Gold with increasing levels of learning and challenge.

JASS is primarily aimed at the Transition years from primary to secondary school age (the upper primary years and the lower secondary) and the age group 10 – 14. We will be introducing this to Year 5 to Year 8 students. However, in some countries, the award can begin at 5 years old.

JASS is very flexible; young people can join in with JASS at any level (Bronze, Silver or Gold) and each JASS programme can be constructed to meet the needs of the individuals or to tie in with local interests or projects.

Duke of Edinburgh International Award

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By Mr Jarlath Daniel Madine, Principal of Beaconhouse Newlands International School