3 international schools nurturing leaders through real-life learning
Source: Tanglin Trust School

Gone are the days when education solely focused on rote learning and standardised assessments. International schools across the globe are dismantling the notion that success is measured solely by grades on a transcript.

Instead, they are focusing on equipping students with the practical skills and resilience needed to navigate a complex global society. The emphasis is on fostering critical thinking, adaptability, and problem-solving abilities. These qualities are essential for addressing the intricate challenges that define our generation — think a roaring pandemic, climate crisis and social inequalities. The best schools base their academic offerings on innovating possible solutions to these challenges.

They are preparing their learners for what’s to come by encouraging them to engage with real-world problems, collaborate on projects with global implications, work with some of the brightest minds across industries, and develop a profound understanding of their roles as global citizens.

To secure an education like this for your child, here are three prime examples of institutions going above and beyond conventional academic instruction:

Guest speaker Vogue, Singapore at The Institute @Tanglin 2023. Source: Tanglin Trust School

Tanglin Trust School (Singapore)

Tanglin Trust School, one of the region’s oldest and most celebrated international schools, is known for its holistic approach to education. It believes in shaping well-rounded individuals who not only excel academically but also possess the practical skills and leadership qualities needed to thrive in an increasingly complex world.

One of the ways they do this is through The Institute @ Tanglin, led by Sohini Brandon-King. She explains that the Institute helps students better prepare for the choices that will make as professionals, individuals and as part of a global community. Since launching in 2022, The Institute has hosted and supported learning opportunities alongside a variety of contributors including The University of Cambridge, Vogue Singapore, PayPal, INSEAD Singapore and The National Gallery, Singapore.

In collaboration with SC Ventures (SCV), Standard Chartered’s innovation, fintech investment and ventures arm, it successfully introduced an inaugural intrapreneurship programme for aspiring innovators. Under the umbrella of CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service), Year 12 students were mentored by SCV coaches in entrepreneurship, design thinking, business modelling, and pitching. The students pitched solutions tackling challenges related to environmental and food sustainability, financial education for children and youth, and support for marginalised communities. One notable idea, “BetterBin,” proposed a self-sorting recycling bin for public areas like schools, parks and public housing.

The Institute is running the programme again this year. “It is inspiring to see young visionary students come up with ideas to solve to people-centric problems, take those ideas through the innovation process and in the end create credible solutions that would stand up against any actual VC pitch,” says Julia Erakovic, this year’s SCV Intrapreneurship Lead. “Their creativity, persistence and courage to embrace change through this process has been a highlight, and I look forward to seeing how their ideas will shape the future.”

Team Energyro, a group of enterprising Year 13 students in 2022-23, is equally impressive. “Their excitement and determination to get involved in the Shell NXPlorers Challenge was evident!” says Chris Dech, Physics Specialist teacher at Tanglin Trust School. With support from The Institute and guidance from their Physics and DT teachers, they focused on harnessing Singapore’s water resources for renewable energy. The Institute provided expert input from green energy and STEM fields, adding unique perspectives on feasibility and design to their project.

Following a successful proposal, the team presented their idea and secured seed money to build a prototype. In November, they presented it to Science Centre Singapore and Shell representatives, receiving enthusiastic feedback. Due to the success of this first project, The Institute has ensured that the Shell NXPlorers Programme is now offered to all senior students as part of Tanglin’s co-curricular programme.

To find out how else Tanglin students are challenging the status quo, click here.

EF Academy International Boarding Schools (USA)

EF Academy students graduate armed with a globalised education and are ready to contribute to society. Source: EF Academy

EF Academy International Boarding Schools has campuses in Westchester County, New York, Pasadena, California, and Oxford, England — each of which is as diverse as they are global. Students and staff come from over 60 countries, bringing unique views that enrich the discussions and camaraderie at these safe and inclusive private institutions.

An education here is transformative — it’s defined by how experiential, immersive and intercultural it is. This can be seen in how internationalism is built into every part of the experience, from interactive exchanges in the classroom to hands-on learning in clubs and activities.

The four-year Global Leadership Programme at the EF Academy Pasadena is focused on developing and implementing solutions that realise the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Using project-based learning, the curriculum offers many opportunities to develop important skills, including curiosity, a global mentality, cultural sensitivity, and strategic thinking.

At EF Academy New York, students expand their understanding from local to global through the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. Holistic and academically rigorous, its six subjects and three core requirements train students to become critical, independent thinkers ready for university anywhere in the world. They stand out for being able to understand languages, social studies, science, mathematics and the arts from a global lens.

As a result of this world-class education, 99% of graduating students were accepted into universities in 20 countries around the world and with US$4.5 million in scholarships. They can be found at the likes of Imperial College London, King’s College London, London School of Economics, MIT, Harvard, Cornell University, McGill University, Australian National University and the University of Toronto.

Gordonstoun School (UK)

As the only school in the UK to have its own Fire Engine, Gordonstoun students get to work with rescue service personnel on real emergencies too. Source: Gordonstoun School

For over 80 years, the Gordonstoun School has been preparing students for life.

Here, they indulge their curiosity. Collaborate and innovate. Develop intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The school’s location on the Moray Coast in the North of Scotland provides a peaceful and safe campus experience that allows them to do all the above and more.

At this school described as “Outstanding” and “Sector leading” by HM Inspectors in 2019, pupils — including three generations of the British royal family — follow the English GCSE and A Level curricula. They do so in small classes, with a student-to-teacher ratio of 7:1, allowing space and time for extended learning and in-depth exploration of subject matter.

Learning continues outside the classroom, through an extensive array of athletic, artistic, and extracurricular opportunities, which include distinctive offerings such as sailing, expedition and community service. Plus, as the only school in the UK to have its own Fire Engine, students get to work with rescue service personnel on real emergencies too.

Another key feature? It’s big on pastoral care. HM Inspectors judged it to be “a model of best practice” and “outstanding”. Activities like the School Pipe Band give older children an opportunity to guide and lead younger children and help them feel that they’re part of the GS family. After Gordonstoun, students move on to university — including Oxford, Cambridge, Central Saint Martins, MIT and the Northern School of Music  — and into the world with confidence. They are ready.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International