What’s the buzz about inquiry?

Sandy Venter – Incoming IB (PYP) Coordinator – Brookes Moscow

You may be asking yourself ‘What is inquiry?’  and ‘What’s all the fuss about it?’  Well, let me try to shed some light on the subject.

Coming from a country, South Africa, which bases most of its educational practices on traditional approaches, that is memorizing knowledge for the purpose of recitation and thereby not developing critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills, inquiry was new to me too.  I was fortunate enough to be introduced to it six years ago when I started my international teaching journey, and have never looked back.  I realized this is the only way I want my children educated.

Growing up I often asked myself; “Why am I learning this at school?’, ‘How is this relevant to my life?’ and ‘What’s the purpose of knowing this?’  Well, the truth was, most of it was not relevant and had no purpose.  And as a result, most of what I learned at school is long forgotten.  This is where inquiry comes in.

Simply put, inquiry is a systematic investigation into a problem, topic, issue or idea; it is the practice of making observations in the world around us, asking questions and pursuing investigations so that we can make sense of it.  These are skills needed to be successful in the 21st Century and beyond.  It is no longer important to know about ‘Dinosaurs’ but rather to understand the concept of ‘Extinction’ and how it affects our lives.  This makes inquiry a critical approach to teaching and learning because we are educating students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

Inquiry places the student at the heart of education and student interest drives the process.  Students are therefore actively involved in the learning process and given a degree of control over what they are learning.  Teaching our students how to think and not what to think is essential.  In the wise words of Socrates, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

The skills used and taught during inquiry ensure that students create their own understanding of concepts, and through relevant and challenging engagements, they become more curious about the world.  These skills inevitably promote lifelong learning and equip students for an ever-changing world.  Students learn and understand best through active engagement and experiences and this actually modifies connections among neurons in certain areas of the brain (Squire & Kandel, 2008).

Joining Brookes Moscow as the PYP Coordinator in August 2018, I know that in partnership with a dynamic and enthusiastic teaching faculty, these skills will be embedded in our teaching and learning approaches and guide our students to become successful and responsible global citizens.  Brookes Moscow will be the place where students can accomplish rich, engaging work.  Work that will inspire, develop insight and stir up the imagination through using an inquiry-based philosophy.

Sandy Venter

The Call to Community

Community can be defined as ‘a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common’. There are many forms of community in our lives, all of which are important to us in becoming better people through developing a sense of caring for one another.

The Family Community

The family is the heart of community, where we find comfort and where we call ‘home’.  It is where we share our deepest love for one another to our children and spouse.  However, living in family is not easy but it is by working through the hard times that we grow together.  It can also be difficult living in a transient international community where people come and go and people have different cultural values.  In our community, we have seen families that we have been close to leave.  However, that doesn’t mean the relationship no longer exists, but gives more of a reason to visit them to where they have moved to.  As they say, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder!’  Therefore, we have access to the world with our children connecting with their peers from all nations.

The School Community

The one characteristic that we have in common is ‘school’.  It provides an opportunity for families to share life together.  Connecting home and school makes us a great community of learners.  As the incoming Head of Lower School and EYFS at Brookes Moscow, I have the opportunity to implement, embed and foster the positive ethos and values that Brookes hold so dearly to the everyday experience in our school.  Investing time in developing the school culture and community will be worth the effort!

The Local Community

For six years now, home for my family has been in Moscow with its rich history and diverse culture.  For the last two years, the International Residential Complex, Rosinka, has allowed us as a family to live, flourish and build community life together with many other families.  Having been an active part of organising many community events, from quiz nights to singing competitions, I have come to realise that community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.  The relationships that we have strongly established as a family with other families in Rosinka have been life changing and long lasting.  It will sadden our hearts to leave this very special place, but we will not be saying ‘goodbye’ but ‘see you soon’, as we will be locating to a similar residential complex called, ‘Novie Veshki’ (http://www.novieveshki.ru/ ) in the north of Moscow near Altufyevo metro station and a 25 minute drive from Brookes, Moscow.

The Global Community

The world is a small place.  By being a part of a global community makes us part of something bigger than ourselves.  Brookes Education Group is a family of schools with values that espouse creativity, build character and develop connections to deliver exceptional educational learning experiences.  Brookes connects globally with their other campuses to learn about the world, from the world. They also inspire and teach students about global issues by connecting ideas and stories from our local community.

‘A candle never loses any of its light by lighting another.’ 

So, let’s light up the lives of others in our communities and devote ourselves to creating something that gives us purpose and meaning.  I am excited to be an active part of building a community of lifelong learners at Brookes Moscow who will be connected and inspired to help others.

Mr. Mark Broom

Incoming Head of Lower School & EYFS

Why are parents so fond of the British education system?

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British-style education is a huge export success story. In addition to locally owned international schools offering the National Curriculum for England and Wales, international General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and A-levels, an increasing number of UK schools are setting up campuses overseas. This is a reflection of the belief that a British-style education provides a quality academic experience.

For illustration purposes, let us look at numbers from the Independent Schools Council (ISC). The ISC is the umbrella organization for fee-paying schools in the UK. It has a membership which covers about 80 per cent of the total number of pupils taught in independent schools in the UK. A survey conducted by the ISC in January 2017 indicated that 50,473 students from overseas attended ISC-affiliated schools in the UK.  About 5,200 of these students were from Russia.

The number of students in the 59 ISC overseas campuses, as of November 2016, was 31,773, which is higher than the number of overseas students in UK-based ISC schools whose parents do not live in the UK.

These figures give us an indication of the popularity of British education, especially when considering that the ISC represents a fraction of schools offering British-style education worldwide.

Why are parents so fond of the British education system?

In a survey of parents in Hong Kong thinking of sending their children abroad for school, Britain was the most popular option by far, with the USA and Australia also mentioned.  Academic quality was the prime motivation for Hong Kong parents. This is quite an interesting finding, considering that Hong Kong has consistently ranked well above the UK in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tables for science, mathematics and reading.

“If it’s results you’re after, you would probably be better in a school in Hong Kong, but people realise that isn’t the ultimate goal of education,” says Dr. Katy Ricks, head of Sevenoaks School.  An education in English is highly prized. In addition, British qualifications are seen as trustworthy and the range of extra-curricular activities appeals to parents who want their children to have a rounded education. Besides British qualifications, state-funded and independent schools in Britain are also offering International Baccalaureate (IB) education programmes.

The pre-eminence of the IB education

The IB’s programmes are different from other curricula because they:

  • prepare a child for life beyond the confines of the classroom and examinations
  • encourage both personal and academic achievement, challenging students to excel in their studies and in their personal development
  • encourage students of all ages to think critically and challenge assumptions
  • encourage students to be active in their communities and to take their learning beyond academic study
  • encourage students to be internationally-minded, within a complex and hyper-connected world
  • incorporate quality practice from research and the global community of IB schools
  • develop multilingual students.

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There are currently more than 5000 IB World Schools in the world. Local governments value the distinctive features of the IB education and actively support the introduction of IB programmes in state-funded schools. More than 50% of IB schools worldwide are state-funded. Close to half of the 152 IB World Schools in the UK are state-funded. In Russia the figure is close to 80 %. Analysis by the Higher Education Statistics Agency in the UK found that IB students were more likely to go to a top 20 ranked university than their A-level peers, more likely to get a first class degree and more likely to go on to postgraduate study. Talking about the appeal of the IB Diploma Programme (for students aged 16-19), Dr David James, deputy head at Bryanston School, an independent school in Dorset, said “The other reason is that the best and brightest students want to take a course which is more intellectual, more fun and more interesting with real links between the subjects.”

Brookes Moscow: The best of British and IB education in Moscow

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When it opens in September 2018, Brookes Moscow is going to be the first British-style IB World School to offer 3 IB programmes (Primary Years, Middle Years and the Diploma Programme) to students aged 3-18 in Russia. Our teachers will be IB-trained professionals with UK teaching qualifications or teaching qualifications recognized in the UK.

For more information, please contact our admissions team admissions@moscow.brookes.org

Brice Bomo

Incoming Deputy Head of School; Brookes Moscow

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