Thursday, September 17, 2009

Who are our schools for?

At ISB, we have a simple response to the question: Our schools are for everybody.

OK, let me qualify that remark. When I say “everybody,” I mean this: When a family moves abroad, or, in the case of our increasing number of local families, moves down the road, they tend to bring all their children with them. Not just the academically “smart” ones, or the confident ones, or the athletic ones, or the “teacher-pleasers”, but the whole bunch. They don’t leave any at home in the attic.

We consider that our work is to serve those children. All of them. That may be considered a philosophical decision, or an ethical decision or even, I suppose, a business decision. For us, though, it’s almost no decision at all - just natural, common sense. These are the kids, so we teach them.

To get a clearer take on current reality, though, I’d have to add some qualifiers: we are an expensive school, and for our more “intensive support” kids, in our Special Education units, there are further fees, helping make the programme more or less self-supporting. Put more cynically, one might say our school is for everybody who can afford it. However, the truth is that we have always managed to persuade employers to pay and never excluded a special education candidate for financial reasons.

A further point: we don’t accept students with severe/potentially dangerous behavioural or medical disabilities. We also keep a good balance and limit “mild to moderate” support students to 15% of our population; with “intensive support” set at 1%. Interestingly, this matches our general population and the approximate number of annual applications. So, again, it is rare for us to exclude a student.

So, if you accept that our ideals are tempered by a degree of pragmatism and sound strategy, we really can say that our school is for everybody, and that we believe our job is to include them, challenge them, help them find their own success. We believe that’s the work of international schools.

What do you think?

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