Innovation Leads the Way in Primary and Elementary School Education

Education has been buffeted by challenges big and small in recent years. Faced with those tests, leading international schools have had to be nimble and innovative to ensure that their charges are getting the best possible education and access to other critical learning opportunities.

The aim, they say, is to equip the coming generations with the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in our rapidly changing world. 

Steven Parr, Founding Director and Head of School, the New International School of Japan

New International School is dual language in English and Japanese for all subjects, with a three-year age-grade range of students and two or more teachers in every class in a highly interactive style of multi-age education. 

“The school uses developmental continuums from the Scottish Curriculum of Excellence throughout the learning areas, a thematic and translanguaging approach when it comes to language acquisition and use, and an abundance of library, technological, and field trip resources instead of textbooks. 

“All of that, we believe, makes for a high-quality education.

“Rather than developing a fixed identity based on comparison with classmates of the same age over time, the students learn from one another regardless of age and, as such, develop different aspects of themselves, as the mentored become mentors, followers develop leadership skills, and so forth, in three-year cycles.  

“They become accustomed to sharing ideas and giving presentations, paying little or no attention to how old anyone is. This bears well for their future lives.

“And the school mission states, ‘The students retain and/or develop self-motivation, a healthy self-image, and an appreciation of others by virtue of what they are able to learn and accomplish within a school environment designed for their enjoyment and success’.”

Heikki Soini, Principal of the Elementary School, the Canadian Academy

“At the outset of the pandemic, the biggest challenge was to connect all students, as some were struggling to stay connected via technology. The return to the classroom has revealed that relationship-building is something that many students missed due to the limitations of interacting.

“The innovation we came up with was to create daily slideshows that included welcome videos from teachers, voice-over lessons, and video lessons students could listen to over and over again. There were also a few whole class meetings or parties where all students could see each other. Teachers organized a number of small group instruction sessions and one-to-one sessions.

“EAL [English as an additional language] and learning support teachers also connected one-to-one with students on a daily basis. We can also video record teaching sessions so that students can revisit the lessons, if needed. It offers some students the opportunity to study at different times and outside the classroom, where they may do better than in a class of 20 other children.

“Our experiences during Covid have confirmed that education should shift focus from the delivery of content to the development of thinking and analytical skills, collaboration and relationship-building, and physical, social, and emotional well-being.

“The tools we have through technology will give us access to all the content we will ever need. Human capabilities and well-being are something we can truly prioritize from now on and follow countries and international schools that have already made such a shift.

“As in our mission statement, we hope to inspire students to inquire, reflect, and make positive impacts throughout their lives. We strive to find families who share the same values as us and students that can make the most of all the exceptional opportunities that the Canadian Academy has to offer, whether that be academics, sports, arts, or service.”

Euft van den Berg, Founder and Head of School, MEES International School

The Covid pandemic made clear that when students had to switch to online learning, if the student was not engaged with what had to be learned, he or she disconnected as soon as there was no teacher physically present.

“Project-based learning (PBL) instills in students the meaning of learning, which therefore engages the students. What is learned comes naturally from one’s own interest, as children are instinctual learners.

“At MEES, children can be children.

“An innovative learning environment is not only achieved by adding new technological developments to the classroom and lessons. It also demands a change from the administration and organization of the school. In line with PBL, MEES teachers have ownership over what is taught as teachers know what is most needed.

“Students at MEES also take ownership of what they want to learn through a flexible curriculum. Our students become independent learners, as learning can take place at any time and anywhere.

“And as we cannot foresee the changes and developments that will take place 10 or 20 years from now, what we can do is work with a new generation of young people that is confident and versatile, and not afraid of change. Instead they look for the opportunities that arise with new developments.


Read more: International Schools Embrace Tech for Now and the Future and Exploring the World of Education 

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