The world around us is changing rapidly, almost too quickly for my liking, but those who stand still will be left behind as we track towards the future. The current campus has not really changed in the past sixteen years, whilst the world has. For our students to thrive and succeed, we will embrace change, attempt to anticipate what the future might be like in five, ten or twenty years’ time, and respond accordingly. Over the break I read a thought-provoking article that compared the Finnish educational system to that of the United States – not the first time that the Finnish programs have been lauded either!
Whilst the conclusions were not that dramatic – great teachers create dynamic classrooms that focus on student learning – the findings could quite easily be applied to the UK, Australian, New Zealand or Canadian educational systems. The Finnish system is not perfect; I still believe that homework is a powerful mechanism to train our students to work individually by giving them time to think, and that the push towards a totally electronic environment is fraught with problems. The major point is that we must give experienced, qualified teachers the space to experiment. And by space, this means intellectual as well as physical; in other words, the space outside the classroom is just as important as the one inside.
As announced a few weeks ago, the Board of Trustees has approved the first major upgrade and expansion to the school’s facilities since the current school campus was completed in 2001. We are currently in the final stages of the planning phase of the projects to retire all of the temporary classrooms by constructing a purpose-built Early Childhood Center (ECC) for classes up to Kindergarten, and additional classrooms, faculty work-spaces and a large, examination/common room in the Secondary School building. As part of these developments there will be interruptions to some of the existing spaces, notably the tennis courts, and access to parts of the campus will be restricted.
The intellectual heart of any school is defined by the quality of its library. Thus, part of our plans is to expand our library facilities to make them more learning-need specific. Over the summer months we will be upgrading the existing library space, with the long term view to make it the Secondary School Library.
Part of the ECC design incorporates its own dedicated library space (we recently employed an Early Learning library-media specialist for August 2016) and within the not too distant future, the Elementary School will have its own area to accommodate this age group’s learning needs. At the same time we are increasing the number of car-parking spaces, reviewing perimeter security and working with the Voluntari City to ensure that access to and from the school from the main road meets our expectations in terms of vehicle and pedestrian safety.
So much is happening – but why are we spending a significant part of our financial reserves with no expectation to expand the school greatly with regards to student enrolment? Quite simply, because facilities matter if you want an excellent academic and extracurricular program.
So, our goal over the next twenty four months is to create spaces for our students to think, read, play, and practice, but above all to experiment so that they can be better inspired, .