When faced with a brave new world, every parent and educator has to come up with brave new answers. But when it comes to our own kids’ education, nobody wants to take risks. Yet I believe we live in an age where it is far riskier not to adapt. Sweeping technological changes have reshaped our children’s brains, future careers, the way they play and the way they learn. It’s made a lot of skills irrelevant and others essential. So what should innovative schools look like?
New schools do not guarantee innovation and established ones do not guarantee excellence – having done extensive research globally, met parents and taught students from a wide range of schools for the past 15 years, I now see that innovative schools that are excellent require a balance between structure and choice, between traditional and pioneering practices, decisions that take professional expertise, continuous negotiation, and concern for students as individuals. It is with this understanding that our team takes on the challenge of building a one-of-a-kind school in Hong Kong that fulfills the promise of preparing students for purposeful work and meaningful lives.
What does this look like on the ground? Our students go on weekly field trips, which help them understand the neighborhood, the city, the world they live in. Through direct experience, they learn to care. In our project-based learning STEAM classes, they learn design thinking and project management skills that help them experiment, research, come up with solutions or inventions that interest them and to rigorously test them. Students receive critique and feedback, and keep refining their work. “Failure” is an entirely different concept when you do not fear or learn to ace exams; “success” is redefined when you see learning as a journey towards a personally defined goal and the feedback received as help for improvement. That precious opportunity to dive into learning without fear of conventional judgment is cultivates fearless makers and changemakers of tomorrow.
Decades ago (and in more traditional contexts even now) sports were not considered academic. Volunteer work has also long been considered laudable but entirely optional and not included in the formal curriculum. At our school and other innovative schools, the boundaries between what is worth learning and what is “extracurricular” are being redrawn.
If a young person sees his talent in sports as means to empower others, learns to conduct research, design surveys to collect data, and write an advocacy paper to make change in his local community – why shouldn’t that journey be celebrated and supported within the “formal” curriculum of school?
Of course, foundational academic skills and knowledge matter. In fact, our students are supported to learn deeply and they get to explore subjects commonly taught in high school like economics and chemistry even when they are in elementary school. But we must be bold and forward-thinking when we decide what is worth our children’s valuable time.
“Our curriculum and pedagogical approach
will emphasize creativity”
At Bloom Academy, our curriculum and pedagogical approach will emphasize creativity, appropriate challenge, and expert support for each student at each stage of development. Our students will learn design thinking from an early age to be able to eventually design their own learning paths and to solve problems with compassion. We embed positive education because we believe inner strengths are the foundation of flourishing in the long run. We have a bilingual program in early years and high language expectations later on because these give students richer access to opportunities as well as a broader, more flexible world view.
A seasoned vintner once told me, “I grow grapes, tend the vineyard, and make wine which people buy. Sometimes they love it at once and sometimes they don’t. But the true success of my work will not be known until decades later.” His word resonated with me because I often feel that the true value of what we teach our children takes time to bear fruit. Yet we believe in taking the long view, and that makes us feel the urgency to reimagine how we can make our children’s education meaningful and joyful now – and relevant for a long time to come.