International Schools: Europe
The 21st Century Dispositions:
Convergent evolution in international business and education
Hard-nosed vs. soft-hearted, financial focus vs. academic focus, the real world vs. the rarified world - these are just some of the traditional ways that have characterized the world of business vs. the world of academia.
But things are changing. At least, when it comes to international business and international education, a common language is beginning to emerge, particularly when it comes to describing what successful people 'look like'.
Making a good living
For some of us, the experience of school bore little connection to the world in which we now find ourselves. We tended to work in isolation, labouring over isolated chunks of seemingly irrelevant knowledge. We felt no connection to any ‘greater good’ – far less the mission of any organizational mission. Success was defined simply in terms of test scores, the individual 'ticket' to higher education.
Compare this to the experience of working in a modern, successful company, where flexible, multi-disciplinary teams assemble around specific projects - where each team is required to deliver rapid, creative responses to the innovative products of other successful companies operating in a competitive global market.
Simply, there is no comparison. Where ‘traditional’ schooling focuses on fixed academic knowledge acquired in isolation for individual success, the world of work requires collaboration within a shifting knowledge base for corporate success.
When it comes to hiring decisions, successful companies know what they are looking for. The human resources literature of top performing companies is heavily weighted towards the ‘habits of mind’ of successful employees. A quick search of the recruitment literature throws up a common list: team-player, problem-solver, systems-thinker, innovator – the attributes of people equipped to make a good living in great companies.
'We choose our people carefully selecting those who are both committed to upholding our culture and values as well as capable of working in teams focused on achieving our business goals.'
(3M Careers Homepage)
What do Independent Learners and International Citizens look like?
Our students develop a set of understandings, knowledge and skills that make them fully ‘literate’ in all fields of learning.
They develop into people who are:
- well balanced
The Common Ground Curriculum
©International School of Brussels
A similar search of the promotional literature of international schools highlights the remarkable convergence that is taking place. Increasingly, international school missions are driven by a ‘Learner Profile’ describing the set of ‘dispositions’ that schools strive to develop in their students. Again, the focus is on teamwork, problem-solving, thinking, etc.
Talking about education in these terms has changed the way schools operate. Academic knowledge is still important. Students still need to 'know stuff'. The difference, however, is in how it is learned and assessed, with the focus being on structured inquiry, collaborative problem-solving and real-world task-based assessments.
Making a good life
The smarter schools and companies know that making a better living, in financial terms, can have its price. They focus not only on the set of dispositions necessary for personal success, but also on those required to manage a stressful life, lived at an accelerating pace and pressure. For many companies, this involves a focus on the personal well-being of employees. In schools, it means engaging students in health education, arts, sports and other forms of release, relaxation and personal development. As a disposition, this can perhaps be captured as 'well-balanced'.
Making life better
Good companies also recognize that 'doing good work' extends beyond financial success to personal and corporate social responsibility. In international schools, the commitment to developing ethical citizens is reflected in the central importance given to helping students become 'principled', 'empathetic' and 'open-minded' – where the emphasis is not only to personal ethics, but also to tackling a range of global issues, from the need for greater intercultural understanding and respect, to the impact of our actions upon other people and the environment.
International business, international schools:
Setting the agenda for educational change Today, international business and international schools share an intuitive, common understanding about ‘real life’ – that making a living and a life is less about what you know than who you are. When it comes to making life better, this is doubly so. This understanding has given birth to an evolving commitment in international business and education to developing and nurturing human dispositions.
It is precisely this kind of understanding that is often so conspicuously absent from national education systems. A narrow academic focus and a politically driven agenda of high-stakes testing and school league tables conspicuously fails to prepare students either for the real world of work or for making a difference in a world of real global problems.
National systems would do well to follow the lead of international business and education. There are many lessons to be learned from these schools and the mobile populations they serve.