What education to choose?

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Education at Open Future International School bases on a worldwide proven educational programme which does not determine in advance what a child should learn, because the content itself is determined by the National Ministry of Education. We are supervised and supported in terms of didactics or teaching methodology and shaping attributes future alumni of their educational units should possess. What is the key difference then?

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I will explain it on the example of my daughter, a former student of a public school in Cracow. As a 4th grader, she learned about photosynthesis. She came to me and asked me to check if she has learned the material. She gave me the book and started to cite the definition she had been learning by heart: Photosynthesis is a process where plant… At some point, she made a mistake and stopped talking, because she simply forgot the missing part of the definition. She took her book back and started to review the definition again. I asked her then if she understood what the process looks like. Unfortunately, she could not answer my question. She only felt obliged to learn a definition by heart in order to mark the correct answer at the test or to fill in a missing part of a definition. Then I started to explain, step by step, what a stoma is, where water and CO2 come from before they reach the leaf, what the role of chlorophyll is, and how light helps a plant to make complex proteins, fats and sugars out of simple substances absorbed from the ground. In a moment, my daughter understood what photosynthesis is about and could not only explain it in her own words, but explain its meaning for the environment, too. This time she really understood it, and I was really proud of her.

This could seem to be success of a parent who temporarily substituted a teacher in the didactic role. Sure of having fulfilled my parental responsibility, I was patiently waiting for a feedback from the school. Unfortunately, my daughter got C. At first, I couldn’t understand how it had happened. But the answer was simple: a 10-minute lesson is not enough for a child to fully remember new content, and it was my fault that she did not manage to learn the definition by heart. It turned out that my belief in my own pedagogical skills was overrated. The teacher at school only checked if my daughter had known the definition by heart, instead of checking if she understands the process. I disappointed my daughter, because it was me, in fact, who was guilty of her bad mark. I asked myself then if it was my fault that I aimed at my daughter’s understanding of photosynthesis, which is a foundation of plants’ colonisation of the world and their independent existence. Should my child really know that it is thanks to this amazing process that people have food to eat? I would really like things to work this way, but unfortunately it wasn’t like that at the nearby school.

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I do not blame the teacher, as it is a matter of the educational system. This is what the system demands educators to do: make children know answers to schematic questions and teach them to skilfully fill in tests. That is why so much attention is paid to memorisation instead of understanding. If a teacher tried to make sure everyone in a 30-people classroom understands the process of photosynthesis and can describe it in their own words, he would not manage to cover the planned material within the given lesson unit. On the other hand, the teacher needs to make sure a child memorises enough information to pass a final exam. However, each of us surely remembers at least one teacher who went against the current and who cared. We remember them mainly because there were not too many of them at our educational path. They are just people trying to do their work in the way the educational system tells them to.

What does such education lead to? This way of teaching is a wonderful preparation for work at an office or call-centre. Such centres develop quite rapidly in our country, as it is here where international outsourcing companies find well-prepared employees. They are, indeed, appreciated by their employers. Memorising information and giving quick answers are necessary in modern customer service at call centres, which is much appreciated by international companies. The minds of students educated in such a way are an effect of Polish educational system: a question – an answer – another question – a fitted answer – another question – a perfectly fitted answer. Thanks to this, we have really good phone and e-mail customer service in Polish companies. You have probably talked to a nice and competent customer assistant, too. Such type of work is currently worth from two to five thousand PLN per month. Why is it only this much and not more? Well, in case of pay rise, a German company will move their call centre to, for example, Turkey, where many people speak decent German, too. If you believe such future will be good for your child, then you do not need to invest in his or her education, as any traditional school will prepare your child for such a role perfectly.

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Now imagine the following situation: a company faces an incredibly complex law issue which requires the connection of knowledge from the areas of civil law, taxation law and economic law. The company seeks help at a lawyer’s office in order to hire a group of qualified lawyers to find a solution to the problem. If they manage to do so, the customer is ready to pay as much as million dollars because he will save ten times as much on tax. Who will the members of such a team of lawyers be? Will a child who was taught at school to memorise definitions and recite them be able to have a broader perspective on the problem and synthesize various issues in order to find a logical solution? Will he or she be able to work in a group of experts from different disciplines of law and accounting in order to find a common solution and then to share his or her million dollars salary with them? Finding a solution to such a problem is indeed worth a million dollars, because there is no ready-made answer which can be learnt by heart and then recited to the customer. In order to find an effective remedy for the customer’s problem. A very different type of thinking and approach will be necessary here in order to succeed.

Let’s go back to the aforementioned lesson about photosynthesis. In an IB certified school, analysing the process would start a lot earlier. At the very beginning of their school education, children would receive beans and flower pots, bags with rich soil, bags with poor soil, and a lamp. They would plant half of the beans in rich soil , and the other half in the poor one. They will water some pots every day, some every second day and some once in every three days. The lamp will light on one pot of each group, while the rest will stay in the shadows. After two weeks students would check which beans grew the most They would do all of this in groups sharing responsibilities, supervised by the teacher. They would come to a conclusion that rich soil, full of minerals, water, and plenty of light made the beans grow faster. Then they would examine the leaves’ bottom under a microscope to see the stoma, while the teacher would explain them how it works. This way children are practically independent in discovering the role of photosynthesis and its role in the life of plants. Such a lesson would be a part of a bigger unit concerning climate changes and students would understand why global warming results in desertification and gradual disappearance of crops, and, in consequence, causes famine and migration from poor countries to the richer ones. Students would be ready to work at United Nations in the future, focusing on the problems of the nutrition of people from the countries suffering from climate changes. And they would earn decent money there.

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Continuous stimulation of young people’s minds to independent thinking does not finish with empirical learning by experience. Theoretically, a simple trip to a theatre is an art too, as well as a challenge and a project for a whole class. It starts from just a rough idea of a class trip to a theatre, which is usually eagerly accepted by children. The teacher, however, faces them with a certain task: how are we going to get there? Students think and suggest going by bus. Another questions arise: what bus? Which bus stop should we get on and get off at? The teacher hints students that it can be checked on the Internet with the use of specially designed websites devoted to public transport. Children have to check by themselves what the name of the school bus stop is, what the name of the destination is, and which buses suit them. Then they prepare a plan of the trip and present the effects of their work to the teacher, who, at this point, can suggest some necessary changes in terms of the logistics of the event. The trip itself is a prize for solving a problem of organising a trip independently. In the opinion of International Baccalaureate Organisation, organising such a holistic way of thinking and the ability to work independently should start at the age of three. IBO draws a lot of attention to each teacher’s and each management team member’s understanding and realisation of this demanding teaching methodology, such different from the commonly known educational system. International Baccalaureate Organization requires its schools, for example, to send them lesson planners every second week. Moreover, teachers have to be regularly trained during meetings organised by IBO. The organization regularly pays supervisory visits at its schools, talking to students, parents and teachers, which helps them check if the school understands and realises the idea of educating future leaders. This is the aim of the education within IB philosophy: Today’s Learners, Tomorrow’s Leaders..

Therefore, if you see your child in the role of a professional whose task is to know his or her job perfectly, such as in the aforementioned case of a call-centre worker, and you believe that he or she will be perfectly happy of having earnings a bit above the average pay, then making the expense of education at Open Future makes no sense. If, though, you envision your child as a leader at an international organization, we will be happy to help you fulfil this dream. It will be primarly our honor, but our common effort, too. One more remark we would like to make is that contemporary world changes incredibly quickly thanks to computer technologies. Thirty years ago only a bunch of people knew what a personal computer is at all, while PCs are omnipresent nowadays. Twenty years ago little did people know about the Internet, while it is difficult to imagine a world without Internet connection nowadays. Iphone, so popular these days, was first presented to customers over ten years ago, while now almost everyone has got their own smartphone. These useful devices understand our speech, show us how to reach a certain direction, project movies and play music. It seems that in twenty years’ time human workers will no longer be needed at call centres, as computers or robots will be answering customers’ queries. Still, someone will have to program these devices, for which huge companies will pay millions of Euros. The realisation of this task will be on young and creative specialists in the fields of computer technologies, sociology, social communication and business. They will be lead by a real leader, being able to embrace all tasks with an open mind, whose charismatic personality and experience in group work will inspire the whole team. Maybe they will be Open Future graduates, and their leader will be your child? We do not know what the world will look like in twenty years’ time, when your child will be looking for their place in the world. You can be sure, though, that regardless from the circumstances, your child will do really well in life if he or she learns to look for solutions and answers.

Karol Tomczyk