Nord Anglia Education
Nord Anglia
08 March, 2024

A Parent's Guide to supporting your Child's Educational Journey

A Parent's Guide to supporting your Child's Educational Journey - Message from the Head of Secondary
Just because my path is different, doesn’t mean I’m lost
From a very early age, parents like to project a future onto the youngsters in their careHow many parents, seeing their toddlers singing and dancing in their innocence, have watched with smiling eyes and remarked ‘they are destined for the stage!’How many children playing with a toy stethoscope have been told that they will make a splendid doctor one dayHow many 8-year-old Lego fanatics have been told that Lego is a fine introduction to a career in engineering?  It’s a comforting thought to imagine that the seeds of a successful future lie in the joys of the present moment.  If only a child’s journey into adulthood was so simple!

We all hope for a rewarding, purposeful and lucrative career in the future for our children and we know that a strong, broad, and balanced education is likely to be a key factor in that future.  Though there are plenty of stories of successful people with very little formal education, in truth they are the exception, not the rule.  In 2023 only two CEOs of the FTSE 100 Companies in the UK did not have a Degree.  Ninety-eight had a degree and half of those have a Master’s Degree.  We can’t all be the Chief Executive Officer of a top 100 company, but if we are going to be, it seems having some formal post graduate qualifications will help.  Mark Zuckerburg is often quoted as an excellent example of a very successful businessman without a degree.  But that conveniently ignores the fact that he developed Facebook whilst at……. Harvard University where he studied Psychology and Computer Science.  If Facebook hadn’t become what it became, Mr. Zuckerburg would probably have been ok….

Education has always been, and will remain, a key indicator in determining life chances, earnings potential and future wellbeing.   A recent study of 6,500 23-year-olds in the UK revealed that those with strong GCSE results ‘’….did well in terms of university entry and prestigious occupations…’’.   Education is not just about earning potential though.  A broad and balanced education provides joy, promotes tolerance and respect, builds character and life-skills, helps confidence and friendships, and encourages risk taking and creativity. A well-educated populace is surely the foundation upon which a successful civic society can be built.  We educate our children not only so that they can be individually successful, but so that they can take their place in society and positively contribute to it with a critical mind and a strong sense of fairness.  

Schools should be places that provide support to students regardless of their pathway to that successful and civic future.  From a very early age personalities develop, and teachers in the early years stage want to see the children in their classes learn to share, to listen, to explore.  As students grow through the Primary School, they will develop personal interests and talents, some of which will change dramatically as they reach their teenage years.  Spending time with subject specialists in the Secondary School will help some students to develop their own passions for a subject discipline and when they get the chance to make their own choices, in Years 9 and 11, they will be beginning to choose their own path, to explore their own passions, to find their ‘happy place’.  The ‘broad and balanced’ continues of course, but by the time a student reaches the Senior School, most have a very strong idea of what they like and what they don’t like.

As our children are going through these experiences, as parents we are always tempted to meddle a little.  And some meddling can be very positive indeed.  Parents have been on this journey too, and a well-timed, honest conversation about the choices we made all those years ago, the good decisions and the bad ones, can really help our children to understand the consequences of decisions made.  Throughout the journey a child is on, we should encourage every avenue they go down, even those we have a hunch might be a blind alley.  Plenty of 11-year-olds really believe they will make a good living in the future from playing Minecraft.  Some might (there is a lucrative and growing gaming sector in the digital world!), but most will become bored by Minecraft within a year or two and move on to something a little more substantial.  Dismissing their childhood obsessions without allowing them to explore the notion might mean that they are less likely to talk to us about more serious future careers in the years to come.  

When students reach Year 9 and get to choose their IGCSE options, most schools will advise students and parents to opt for subjects they will enjoy.  Some parents will want their child to be far more practical than that.  A GCSE in History would certainly help develop useful skills required for a career in Law, but if the child prefers to study Geography then most teachers would recommend opting for Geography.  Why spend two years studying something that you don’t enjoy?  No decision made at 14-years -old is going to close the door on any future university course or career.  

Decisions made at 16-years-old however, are a little more ‘high stakes’.  Some subjects are simply ‘required’ to attain a place at the university you want to go to.  You can’t enroll onto the German Studies Course at Warwick University without having studied German at Higher Level in the IB for example, and to become a doctor you are going to need decent grades in two of the three Science disciplines.  Those who are absolutely determined to pursue a life in Business should consider a pathway that allows them to explore that discipline in greater depth and which opens up university courses which will help them achieve their long-term goal.  

When our youngsters reach these points in their school life, making choices and considering their long-term futures, parents should remember to:

  • Listen when they want to talk about it. And not force them to talk about it when they don’t want to.
  • Spend time with the course information in the school prospectus. Get to know what will be studied and consider how enjoyable it will be.
  • Ask teachers. And current students. You will get plenty of chances to do this, especially at school open evenings.
  • Talk about the decisions you, or people in your family made – but don’t preach and project your own dreams and wishes onto the child!
  • Spend a little time on university websites together, understand what courses might be required for future admission.
  • Ask your child to show you Unifrog – an online platform they use in school which encourages them to think about their futures.
  • Dream big and be realistic. It’s ok to want to be an astronaut. But most astronauts start out life as scientists or pilots. If your child hates science and has bad eyesight, the whole astronaut thing might not happen……
  • Consider the way in which assessment happens. Does your child retain information well and enjoy exams? Or are they more comfortable learning through projects and building portfolios? The BTEC pathway is assessed differently – have you explored all the available pathways sufficiently?
  • Don’t be dismissive of courses which sound new and unlikely. A degree in Golf Course Management might be less traditional than a degree in Engineering or Law, but it is just as valid. It might not be what you had in mind for your child, but it might be what is in theirs. Pursue it alongside them – tomorrow will not be the same as yesterday…

At the British International School, we believe that our students should have the opportunity to explore all sorts of futures – which is why we believe so strongly in a broad and balanced education.  By the end of Year 13, all of our students should have several avenues available to them and even after they have made their big decisions and head off to pursue their next chapter in higher education or professional development programmes. They should have the skills, resilience and adaptability to change their mind – as many do, even after they have begun their undergraduate studies or development programmes. The future demands flexibility.  Students in our school have a range of pathways that they can pursue, especially as they enter Years 10 to 13.  Some of those pathways lead to traditional exam-based assessment, others lead to projects and ongoing coursework.  We can personalise timetables in flexible ways to support the goals that our students are pursuing, and we make sure that they are surrounded by experienced, caring professionals who know a thing or two about guiding young people through Years 12 and 13 and into the world of academia.  Everybody’s path is a little different here at BIS Abu Dhabi – and we don’t allow anyone to get lost.

Mr. Chris Lowe

Head of Secondary

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