Taking a whole-school approach to thinking
“I’ve always had this belief that education should be about lighting fires, and not just filling minds,” says Ian Tysoe. As Principal of St. George’s International School, a small day and boarding school situated on the banks of Lake Geneva, Ian Tysoe is poised to start a revolution in Swiss schooling.
Ian Tysoe has been teaching and running schools—primarily boarding schools—for 40 years, in the UK and Switzerland. In 2014 he came across an organisation called Thinking Schools International, established in 2010 as a partnership between Kestrel Education in the UK and Designs for Thinking in the US.
“We’re undertaking a training program through them, looking at a 5-year plan to become accredited,” he tells Swiss Style. “We would be the first accredited Thinking School in continental Europe, certainly the first one in Switzerland.”
21st Century learning
Ian Tysoe joined St. George’s as Principal in August 2014. When he came, he says, “there were a lot of people here talking about thinking, thinking skills, 21st C entury l earning. A nd putting this all together I thought, what we really need is a whole-school approach on skills and traits that we want to give our students for the 21st Century.”
An education at St. George’s prepares students for the world beyond school, at university or in business. “They’re going to need to be able to communicate well. They’re going to need to be able to collaborate with people. They’re going to have to think critically. And most importantly they’re going to have to be creative. They need to be entrepreneurs. They need to be inquisitive,” Ian Tysoe says.
One of the hallmarks of the TSI programme is the school-wide introduction of thinking maps. An example of a Thinking Map in action can be seen above.
At St. George’s “these maps are starting to be used now by all the children and all the staff in all classes,” says Ian Tysoe. “It’s the same approach in art or math or PE, so they will see the links between the disciplines. I believe it’s very important that children start connecting across the disciplines.”
There are different types of thinking, says Ian Tysoe. “You’ll compare and contrast. You’ll sequence. You’ll describe. You’ll define. And there’s a map for each of those types of thought.”
According to Thinking Schools International, the whole-school approach to the teaching of thinking and thinking skills leads to increased attainment, improved motivation, concentration and independent learning. “The culture in schools has changed to one where teacher and students work together and place thinking at the heart of the curriculum.”
Ian Tysoe says the TSI maps are designed to develop high-order thinking. “You have knowledge and comprehension as the foundation,” he says. “Then come application, analysis and synthesis, with evaluation at the top. We want more analysis, more synthesis and more evaluation, rather than just the learning of facts.”
More than lessons
There’s much to do at St. George’s besides learn facts. The school, founded in 1927, is home to over 400 boys and girls aged 3 to 19. It’s a close-knit community of students with more than 50 nationalities. The boarding houses provide a home away from home for students from more than 25 countries.
A particular strength of the school is its Pastoral Care based on a House system, supported by personal tutors which allows individual care for each child, both academically and socially.
To encourage aesthetic appreciation, there are cultural activities within the school, as well as visits to museums, places of natural beauty, concerts, and dance and theatre performances.
But culture is not just for spectators: students in the junior school perform a class play or musical each year. There are two jazz bands, a rock band, and a community choir. And as for sport, there are inter-house competitions in cross-country, football, basketball, badminton, unihockey, volleyball, skiing, tennis, rounders, athletics, and swimming.
Through sport and the creative arts, there is an emphasis on integrity, teamwork and celebrating success, says the school’s website.
Children can be “music smart, school smart, work smart,” says Ian Tysoe. “So there’s not just one type of thinking or one type of intelligence. And with Ian Tysoe’s help, students at St. George’s are receiving an education where the focus is on lighting fires.
The Junior school (ages 3 to 11) broadly follows the British National Curriculum, with progressive bilingualism in English and French. In the Senior school (UK years 7-13, US grades 6-12), small classes are complemented by well-stocked libraries, science laboratories, music rooms, art rooms, a fully equipped computer centre, as well as a media centre. Students are prepared for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), the International Baccalaureate (IB) as well as for a High School Diploma (HSD).
All students study French as either a foreign or a second language, and beginning in Year 8, they choose between either Spanish or German. There is also a mother-tongue support program designed to maintain students’ literacy skills in their native language.
St. George’s International School
Chemin de St. Georges 19
1815 Clarens, Switzerland
Tel: +41 21 964 34 11
Article by Jeannie Wurz