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The Power of an Ambitious Education Philosophy

25 November 2018

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark." 


  • Ambitious Education

Parents want their children to succeed at school in order to attain success in later life.  Teachers want the same because they are ambitious for these young people to live out their dreams and have the life choices to be happy whilst making a positive contribution to society.  So, how we do develop programmes to enable this, to permeate everything that we do in our schools, and at home, in order to give the greatest gift we can to our children – the gift of a great education?

Some schools talk about high performance in academics, which can help some achieve their goals, but a school with a philosophy that encourages all to be ambitious is more than this.  It is about developing a broader concept of learning that goes far beyond the skills, knowledge and understanding of traditional subjects.  It pushes children to consider the very nature of knowing what we know.  It encourages children to challenge and critique what they are being told in order for them to develop a deeper understanding of the world and all that happens within it for as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being”.  Rather than simply passing exams, ambition inspires them to take risks and not be afraid to make mistakes. It embraces our humanity and encourages children to develop the will, the dream and the courage to be what they want to be rather than just passing exams.

As life often shows us, some people who possess great skills, natural ability or talents fail to succeed as expected after school.  Having talent but little ambition behind to drive you forward will lead to wasted potential.  It is the seeds of drive, resilience and persistence combined with strong moral values that are nurtured in the best learning environments and encourage these traits to grow and prosper to produce well-rounded, confident and positive adults for a productive future.

Ambition is key and whilst this attribute may be hard-wired into our DNA, it only becomes activated when properly stimulated.  Ambition and positivity are features of human nature that have to be switched on by our parents, our teachers and our peers.  It is a learned attribute that is nurtured in many children as they move through their formative years.  It is this attribute that drives them to greatness in their field.  

During his school days, James Dyson excelled at long distance running: "I was quite good at it, not because I was physically good, but because I had more determination. I learnt determination from it." It took James five years and over 5,000 prototypes before Dyson launched the bag-less vacuum cleaner. However, no manufacturer or distributor would handle his product in the UK, as it would have disturbed the valuable market for replacement dust bags, so Dyson launched it in Japan through catalogue sales. He faced and overcame a number of challenges prior to his company becoming the global success that it is today. 

Michael Jordan, the famous basketball player did not have an easy start. He was ridiculed for being too short to play at varsity level and he wasn’t picked but he had learned from his family and from his teachers that he must never give up and, with an ambitious outlook and a positive mindset he could overcome the obstacles.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Students who are fueled by ambition to work hard will do well because they understand that sacrifices need to be made. Determination, passion and focus on what you want to achieve instills a feeling of self-worth and self-belief that success is the only option.  It is vital that we instill these qualities in our children, not just to see them do well in school but for when they leave the comfort and security of a school environment to have the confidence to go further on their own and be who they want to be.

Happy and ambitious students have purpose in life.  These children understand that there are no short cuts and no quick wins.  Hard work, perseverance and courage drive them to be the best people that they can be.  At Compass International School Doha, the school philosophy is all about how teachers and support staff encourage children to Be Ambitious. This philosophy runs through the very core of school life preparing students for future success and encouraging them to be motivated in all that they do. We follow the Ambition Based Learning approach, which helps students to make use of the facts and principles they learn and encourages them to use these to deepen their understanding further. It challenges the closed and limited practices of schools that are focused on teaching to pass a test rather than learning how to be a lifelong learner with the strength and will to never give up on oneself. It draws on the best pedagogic practice for high performance and takes it several steps further.  It may be true that you are never too old to learn but it is also true that it is easier to learn new ideas when you are young. Developing the ambition to be lifelong learners is a trait that we wish to encourage in all students which is what we are striving to achieve at Compass International School Doha.


Dr Terry Creissen OBE MA MBA FCIM FRSA

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