Jakarta Intercultural School empowers students to be independent, lifelong learners
Now more than ever, schools have their work cut out for them to equip students with the skills they’ll need to navigate an increasingly globalised world and also thrive in their chosen path. With the multitude of challenges, they’ll face at university and in the workplace bound to change rapidly, it’s increasingly clear that the need for them to adapt and think critically as confident, independent life-long learners is crucial to their success.
According to educators at Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), it is important to foster these traits from an early age through the planned, purposeful expansion of choices and responsibilities from kindergarten all through Grade 12.
“We believe that children must be prepared to function successfully in a changing world. And our role as educators is to support that journey by providing a safe, nurturing environment,” explained JIS Head of School Dr Tarek Razik. “We encourage each child to think critically and independently, and to develop a love of learning and self-motivation by attaining academic and personal goals.”
At JIS, students are empowered to choose, to take charge of their own learning experiences, he added.
Those experiences, from lessons and electives to co-curricular activities, are supported by robust, interrelated academic programs — JIS Early Years in Pondok Indah, Elementary School in Pondok Indah and Pattimura, and Middle School and High School in Cilandak — that are as rigorous as they are relevant, inclusive, and coherent. Connecting them are immersive teaching and learning strategies based on self-driven inquiry and exploration.
“Children are competent learners with an innate curiosity about the world, so even as early as kindergarten, JIS students are provided multiple opportunities to explore and engage in their natural curiosities; they are prompted to ask questions and reach logical conclusions,” said Razik.
All throughout, they are guided and observed by experienced educators as they make supported independent decisions. These may range from setting up their own home learning spaces, planning then carrying out service-learning initiatives, and choosing electives that will allow them to pursue their interests, to tailoring their own preparatory program for university consisting of International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
As students progress through the grade levels at JIS, they are given access to a broader, more diverse range of choices and responsibilities. An important part of the JIS Middle School is that students are exposed to a variety of experiences and are encouraged to try something new. By the time they reach Grade 9, the start of high school, they are prepared to thrive in the adult world, gaining even greater independence and facing more responsibilities as self-regulated individuals.
JIS High School Vice Principal Ryan Campbell described the basic philosophy behind it as preparing students for success by treating them as if they were already successful young adults.
“They are given increasing independence through our Honor Pass system, emphasis on self-advocacy, and a vast amount of course options to choose from,” he elaborated.
Honor Pass is a 75-minute block of free time students have every other day outside of break time, in which they can meet with teachers, work on projects with classmates, visit the library, or simply relax between classes. Both a right and a privilege, Honor Pass is meant to strengthen students’ time-management skills and is considered an essential part of the JIS High School experience.
In Grade 11 and 12, the veritable menu of courses for them to choose from is expanded yet again as part of the academically rigorous IB and AP programs. Recognised internationally, both offer specified subjects that allow participants to focus on developing the skills and knowledge they’ll need for whatever field of study they decide to pursue after graduation. AP coursework is also available to Grade 10 students, one of the few schools in Indonesia where this is an option.
“This carefully structured pathway toward university means that as a student progresses through high school, they are in turn growing as an independent individual,” Campbell said. “This increased freedom comes alongside increased responsibility and we find that our emphasis on service learning and thinking of others is another vital part of helping students develop the maturity they will need for success at university and in adult life.”
For students, this extensive approach is undeniably challenging, but the agency they have over their own learning makes their experience all the more satisfying. JIS Class of 2020 graduate Farheen, for example, felt that by simply asking her what she wanted, JIS gave her “a voice I never knew I had.”
“JIS’s inquiry-based and student-driven approach to learning has taught me how to truly stand on my own two feet, instead of being dependent on my teachers for information and additional resources,” she said.
“I’ve discovered the intricate balance between being resourceful and asking for support, a combination I know will be super handy at university. I hope to use this newfound confidence and empowerment to make a difference in my new home.”
“Home” for Farheen is currently the University of Pennsylvania, where she is pursuing a dual degree at the Ivy League College of Arts and Sciences, and Wharton School of Business. She is one of six students in her class to be accepted into Ivy League universities. Other JIS graduates have moved on to attend such prestigious institutions as Harvard, University of Cambridge, Cornell, Seoul National University, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Stanford, University of Toronto, and Boston University.
“We are a very fortunate and well-resourced school [that] treats every student uniquely. And by the time students are ready to apply to university, they have had every opportunity to identify and apply to the course that suits their individual profiles,” Campbell added.
“It is all of these things and a lot more than when our young Dragons walk across the hallowed JIS graduation stage, we know that they are ready to stretch their wings and fly successfully through university and life beyond.”
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