“Holistic” is a term you hear quite a lot at OIS. I say it all the time!
It refers, of course, to our approach to educating your children, in that we focus on educating the “whole child” rather than just concentrating on academics. Integrity, adaptability, creativity, confidence, curiosity, resilience, etc, etc, etc…. you’ve heard them all from me, many, many times.
I believe that if we focus on just exam scores, that’s all we’ll get. But if we focus on developing the whole child into an outstanding adult, the exam scores will follow (as our results show).
You have also heard me say many times (I’m not very good at saying something just once) that school years are for “education”, not career training. The objective of a holistic (or liberal arts) programme is to produce graduates with a broad, balanced education. Career training happens after kids finish high school (sometimes a long time after – American universities continue the liberal arts education for a further four years before any career specialization happens).
That’s why our programmes require students to study a range of subjects. For the IB Diploma, students have to study language and literature, language acquisition, an experimental science, individuals and societies, mathematics and the arts (as well as the CAS, TOK and EE components). This is what IB calls a “pure” diploma – a truly balanced education, with no specialization.
But there is a loophole! The IB will allow students to study a second science or a second humanities subject instead of a Group 6 subject (Visual Arts, Theatre and, next year, Music). This isn’t a pure diploma, but it is permitted. And it seems to be favoured by Indian students (and their parents) to get a head-start on a chosen career path by specializing (two sciences for doctor/engineer, or economics/business for a corporate career).
In next year’s 11th grade, 13 students are studying both Economics and Business & Management (out of a total cohort of 103 students). One eighth of our kids will be spending one third of their time studying economics/business.
This is not a holistic education, this is specialized career training. And if we look at what these kids did during their IGCSE years, almost all of them studied both Economics and Business Studies. This specialization, this career training, began back in the ninth grade at 14 years old. What could be gained from starting a child on a career path at such an early age? The child might become
- a Social Media Manager
- a Data Scientist
- a Podcast Producer
- a Mobile App Developer
- an Artificial Intelligence Strategic Analyst
- an Employment Brand Manager
- a Cloud Architect
- a Search Engine Optimization Analyst
- a Telemedicine Physician
(For the record, I have no idea what these professions involve – I’ve just been Googling)
There is a widely-held belief that universities will be impressed by kids who have devoted a third of their high school years to one particular subject area. I wondered about this, so I checked out the admissions websites of a couple of the most selective university courses, to see what they were looking for.
“You should be invested in the things that really mean something to you (we’re not particularly picky as to what). Explore!” (This is from the admissions department at MIT.)
“No preference is given to students who have majored in Science over those who have majored in other disciplines” (That’s from Harvard Medical School, where the admissions website then goes on to say..)
“Students are urged to strive not for specialized training but for a balanced, liberal education”.
Top universities want good, well-balanced, broadly-educated young people, not kids with a narrow field of experience. High school is a time for students to “explore” (as MIT advises) their interests, to round off their education by pursuing those areas that fascinate them the most.
My own son is an IB Diploma graduate. His three higher level subjects were Physics (I think he liked the teacher more than the subject), English (he has always loved reading) and History (he has always been fascinated by stories from the past). He’s now a veterinary surgeon, and it’s interesting to note that Biology was not one of his IBDP subject choices.
….because high school is not career training.
Any comments? I’ve had a number of parent comments from each of my last few letters. Please keep them coming – I do enjoy reading them.
Head of School - OGC Campus