This op-ed was written by Dr Robert Harrison, Education Strategy Director at ACS International School Doha.
Today, we are all caught up in a technological revolution that is unlike anything experienced before. From machine learning, AI and self-driving cars, to 3D printing, augmented reality and robotics, complex technology is trickling down into our day-to-day lives, not only affecting the way in which we work and communicate but also in shifting the way we run our businesses.
As we watch this Fourth Industrial Revolution unfold, we cannot predict how it will end, but we can prepare for the changes ahead.
As leaders in education, it is our responsibility to adapt our educational models so that they reflect our world today and provide an academic foundation that offers the knowledge, tools and skills needed to succeed – alongside the flexibility to choose one’s own pathway for a lifetime of learning.
At the core of students’ success should be a curriculum which not only caters to a well-rounded education but also recognises that every student is unique, fuelled by their own passions and motivated by their own dreams. This means that empowering schools offer advanced study which spans core subjects like statistics, calculus, biology, computer science and comparative government.
At ACS International School Doha, for example, we offer four school-leaving qualifications that students can choose from as they plan their next steps in life: Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and Career-related Programmes, and the US High School Diploma.
The Advanced Placement Program® (AP) is the latest extension of ACS Doha’s curriculum, offering more flexibility to students who want to explore subjects in-depth through a one-year externally-examined courses. AP courses are highly-valued, particularly by US and Canadian universities. As a parallel learning pathway, the AP programme enables students to experience college-level studies while they are still in high school. These rigorous courses offer challenging work where students learn essential time management and study skills that are crucial for college and career success. What is more, students can focus on their preferred subjects of interest, tapping into their individual creativity and problem-solving skills, possibly earning an AP international diploma upon graduation and often earning college credit.
Nourishing a student’s unique talents means adopting a personalised approach to teaching that pays close attention to their interests, strengths, and aspirations, and remains consistent throughout the duration of their school life. An enhanced approach such as this, adopted by ACS Doha, adds the kind of flexibility that is essential in today’s education systems. Focused discussions, progress evaluations, engaging students’ families, and identifying best-fit courses are all part of a larger philosophy for fostering growth through guidance that is tailored for each student’s individual success. Personal and academic challenge and learning beyond the classroom are important qualities in a contemporary education that aims to prepare students for their chosen futures.
While both AP and IB Diploma courses present a route that is attractive for students who wish to immediately pursue a traditional pathway toward higher education, ACS Doha offers an exciting alternative that focuses on more hands-on, career-oriented trajectories. The dynamic International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP) develops personal and professional skills, a career-related qualification, and focused academic study that puts students on what can be a more direct path toward the workplace. Enhancing this experience, ACS partners with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) to offer a high-quality curriculum in entrepreneurship, as well as externship opportunities with Paragon One, through which students work online with some of the most respected companies in the world. Students benefit from work experience, internships, mentoring and service learning from experienced industry professionals that are part of a large network of global companies.
Understanding that not one size fits all, the IB career-related programme allows students to channel their strengths in a skills-based, work-related credential that lets them choose for themselves between higher education, apprenticeship, or even starting a business of their own. It’s a highly-flexible framework for a rich, relevant and personalised education. Students learn life-long skills in applied knowledge, critical thinking, communication and cross-cultural engagement.
University admission officers are not only looking for good grades and evidence of character, but also for some idea of a students’ interests, passion and personal accomplishments. Career-related learning helps fill that gap. The IBCP focuses on practical, real-world experience that’s highly motivating for today’s students who understand community challenges and are anxious to make their mark in a rapidly-changing world.
What the world needs now is a new generation of global thinkers and doers. We need a range of rigorous, relevant educational programmes that can help every young person rise to the challenge, and become the best possible version of themselves. The future depends on their success.