Building future leaders: International schools pioneering real-life learning

Harrow Appi Japan

A modern education demands more than just a traditional classroom experience — it incorporates a dynamic approach that prepares students for the challenges they will face at university and beyond.

Schools are aware of this and, in response, have begun adapting their offerings. In Australia, for example, purpose-built play spaces surrounded by natural wonders are becoming a common feature. By not requiring students to dedicate a majority of their time to passive learning, their students are becoming more versatile, intelligent, and ready to take on any challenge that comes their way.

Yet, the most progressive schools go a step further. They integrate a comprehensive academic curriculum with a diverse range of extracurricular activities while striving to cultivate a supportive community encompassing both peers and educators. Thankfully, Asia is home to plenty of those, but these four stand out particularly for their focus on pioneering real-life learning.

Harrow International School Appi Japan

Harrow International School Appi Japan

Harrow International School Appi Japan makes full use of its natural environment and bespoke outdoor activities to nurture children into future leaders. Source: Harrow International School Appi Japan

Situated amongst majestic mountains and in a uniquely Japanese setting, Harrow International School Appi Japan stands out as one of Asia’s most distinctive boarding schools. It offers a one-of-a-kind boarding experience that inspires academic excellence, and prepares one for a life of learning, leadership, service and personal fulfilment. This is where children become future leaders, following in the footsteps of graduates of Harrow UK — founded in 1572 — including the likes of Lord Byron, Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, King Hussein, Lord Rayleigh and numerous influencers, inventors, artists and Nobel Laureates. To live and learn at Harrow Appi is to breathe fresh mountain air daily, chase the adrenaline from adventure sports, broaden horizons and prepare for life and leadership — all while attaining the high academic standards of a world-class British-style education.

Outdoor activities are at the heart of Harrow Appi. The has taken students into blizzards, music ensembles, lava fields and retirement homes. In winter (or white season), students ski or snowboard up to four times a week. Come summer (or green and gold seasons), they’ll focus on golf, tennis, and cycling.

On campus, facilities abound for students to explore and learn. Picture easy access to the biggest ski resort in Japan, a 36-hole golf course, and access to 14 tennis courts. Plus, there is a wide range of activities hosted by various clubs and societies, including jazz, debate, water polo , Model United Nations, and many more. Add service learning to this list, and students are one step closer to discovering the leaders within themselves.

This three-season roster of activities is accompanied by 360-degree support available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Whatever students choose to sharpen their passions and talents in, the school ensures Harrow values — Courage, Honour, Humility and Fellowship — are always embraced. It’s a dynamic journey, one where students develop six leadership attributes: contributing positively to the community, applying knowledge with compassion, solving problems collaboratively, solving problems creatively, making fair and just choices, and facing challenges with determination. To learn more about Harrow Appi’s admission process, click here.

Jerudong International School

JIS is currently home to approximately 1,680 students, representing 55 nationalities. Source: Jerudong International School

Located in Brunei Darussalam, Jerudong International School (JIS) offers a wide range of opportunities for its 1,660 students to improve their own lives while bettering those of others. Here, that’s what leadership is all about, and everyone is welcome to take initiative. By joining Year Level Councils and House Councils, students are empowered to actively participate in decision-making processes, ensuring their voices are heard and valued.

The COBIS School Accreditation 2022 observed elected representatives, Year 6 and upwards, organising large whole-school events, from assemblies to themed weeks. It commended students for “seizing the opportunities offered to take on a wide range of leadership positions and to make such a positive contribution to their school.”

Beyond student council roles, learners can become subject ambassadors and House captains, take on extracurricular leadership roles, guide and support incoming students, or coordinate initiatives based on the global issues that matter to them the most, such as environmental action or diversity, equity and inclusion.

For example, the 16 Houses in the Senior School itself are home to a Captain, a Deputy Captain, Eco-Captains, Digital Captains, Sports Captains, and Events Captains. Together with the Senior Student Council, the House Councils have conducted Peace Week, International Week, Well Being Week, Safer Internet Day, and Odd Socks Day, which focused on anti-bullying.

To ensure everyone excels in their roles, the Leadership Coordinator and Head of Years 10 and 11, Ralph Morel, conducts regular workshops on public speaking, motivation, and team-building. Practical leadership training is possible through facilities like the Low Ropes Course and a bespoke campsite, on campus and close to the beach for safe camping and wilderness training. As JIS aims for students to flourish in all areas, including business, it has introduced the Ivy House Award, the first school in Asia to do so — bringing the kind of personal and professional development usually reserved for the most senior execs, to students. Through this award-winning programme, students aged 15 to 18 can gain the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to step up and take ownership of their future.

Indeed, the school’s 120-acre campus has space for heaps more opportunities, which can all be discovered here. It also has more than enough room for students to develop love and appreciation for the world around them. Hence why JIS has the largest population of students participating in the Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.

Marlborough College Malaysia

At Marlborough College Malaysia, pupils hone their sense of social responsibility and learn to put their thoughts into action. Source: Marlborough College Malaysia

Set on a safe and spacious 90-acre estate, Marlborough College Malaysia (MCM) is guided by principles of compassion, companionship and conversation. Here, students join the faculty in pursuing questions, not simply answers; in discovering ideas, not merely facts; and in appreciating the journey, not solely the destination.

Highly rigorous academics, a caring community, qualified teachers, student-focused learning, and college-preparatory courses — these are the features that ensure student success at MCM. Academic programmes here offer students myriad opportunities and challenges in a supportive environment. The school’s IGCSEs and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme opens the doors to many of the world’s finest universities.

What sets the college apart is its range of co-curricular opportunities. From sports to music and art, each and all provide challenge and comfort as a critical part of a meaningful, holistic education. They develop a pupil’s understanding of global issues and their responsibilities as global citizens.

“With our shared DNA and close links with Marlborough UK, we value and instil breadth of experience, intellectual rigour, creative joy and sporting excellence,” says Alan Stevens, Master of Marlborough College Malaysia.

Bangkok Patana School

At Bangkok Patana School, students are prepared to make a positive difference in the world from a young age. Source: Bangkok Patana School

As one of the most respected educational establishments in South East Asia, Bangkok Patana School knows what future-proof education is. Here, over 2,200 students from around 60 countries, from Foundation Stage right through Senior Studies, are nurtured to become lifelong learners who can adapt to an ever-changing world.

Teachers here don’t merely give directions but work alongside the child in an open classroom. This encourages children to find meaning and value in their interests, which in turn gives them the confidence to share ideas and thoughts.

Here, student welfare is a key priority. Their wide range of extra-curricular activities provides a holistic approach to learning to ensure that their students graduate as well-rounded individuals ready for higher education and to positively impact society.

Charlie Golsby, who has been a student at Patana since Year 5, thinks he has developed a lot at this “great school”. He shares, “It helped me settle into living in Thailand and I’ve grown a lot. The school instils a sense of responsibility to not just yourself but to the community at large.”

New teacher Antony Wilson was sold on Patana from his first impressions. “I’ve worked internationally for more than 15 years so I know a well-resourced school when I see one; everything here is very purposeful.”

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