Today’s school leavers are walking into a very different socio-economic climate than their parents. In many ways, they have it good – the number of career paths available to them is vast to the point of being overwhelming. A varied and exciting career is likely to lie ahead; gone are the times of walking into ‘a job for life’ at 18 years old, especially now the average person will change jobs eleven times over the course of their working years. Where there used to be a clear path that all school leavers were expected to follow, we now increasingly see young people channel their entrepreneurial spirits into founding their own start-up companies. It’s certainly an exciting time to be entering the workforce.
But with all this change also comes a degree of uncertainty. With more college and university courses on offer than ever before, how can we expect an eighteen year old to reflect the insight and maturity needed to know which degree would suit them best? In today’s competitive job market, how can a school leaver stand out from their peers, all of whom will be applying for jobs with the same on-paper qualifications? In a world of so many business opportunities for those with original ideas, how can we give these teenagers the skills and confidence needed to really make something of their dreams?
One thing we can say for certain is that the traditional, rote learning style curriculum offered in secondary schools is not going to fully-equip school leavers for the exciting but challenging opportunities that they face upon graduation. Certain schools have recognised this limitation, rising to the challenge and going the extra mile to produce the type of graduates who can respond to these new demands and blaze a trail for their peers in doing so. This article discusses six of these schools across the US and the UK.
Tilton School, located in New Hampshire, lists its mission as ‘challenging students to embrace and navigate a world marked by diversity and change’. It stands to reason that such a mission would steer the school towards an individualised and holistic approach to education. Upon admission, each students’ interests, skills and strengths are assessed and used to compile their individualised Guided Program of Study (GPS). The GPS encourages students to develop leadership skills both in and outside of the classroom, setting them up both for university and the working world. These avenues for building skills are matched to the students’ strengths and passions, and can include anything from student government to athletic leadership.
The school also places a strong focus on developing a sense of responsibility and awareness of public issues in its students – two things that are certainly integral to tomorrow’s leaders. Opportunities to participate in projects such as charity work, community building programs and community outreach are available to all Tilton students.
To consciously develop one’s leadership skills with the support of an experienced faculty at such a young age gives the Tilton graduate a distinct advantage on their peers.
Situated half mile from the charming town of Kent, this is an American institution that models itself on a traditional British boarding school structure. Kent actively encourages its sixth form students to undertake leadership roles; such as being a member of the Senior Council, who help organise school events and represent the student body to Administration and the Headmaster. Kent students also have the chance to undergo training to become a peer counsellor; offering advice to other students in the school who may be struggling with various issues.
Community service is very much encouraged at Kent. Many students have regular volunteering slots with local services such as nursing homes and animal sanctuaries. Others may choose to participate in the service trips that the school facilitates over the spring and summer breaks, or to fundraise or volunteer as part of a sports team or athletic group.
These opportunities to undertake meaningful roles in the school and surrounding community at such a young age are invaluable for preparing a teenager to take on a meaningful role in whatever world they find themselves in after graduation.
The motto of this Maryland-based boys school is ‘preparing men for others since 1789’. The school strives to stay true to its Jesuit ethos by offering students the opportunity to take part in an ‘immersion program’, where they provide volunteer services for communities in need. Students must each fulfil a service requirement as part of their time at Georgetown, and the school facilitates a number of volunteering actvities both in the local community and further afield.
Upon graduation, students are offered the opportunity to take part in the alumni service corps, where their living costs are covered in exchange for offering a leadership role relevant to their own skills and experience within the school. Not only does this promote the ideal of taking responsibility and giving back to the school community, it also is an invaluable work experience opportunity for somebody about to enter the working world.
This co-educational boarding and day school is located in rural Perthshire, Scotland. Strathallan prides itself on its provision of informal learning outside of the classroom, as well as the formal curriculum. Opportunities are made available for students to solidly progress in whatever their area of interest may be – for example, one-to-one music tuition is available for all.
The opportunity to complete the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh award at all three levels is also available. This award combines outdoor pursuits, volunteering and life skills with the aim of exposing young people to opportunities and interests that will mould them into well-rounded members of the community.
A number of service opportunities separate to this award are also facilitated by the school, both locally and abroad. Strathallan offers the Combined Cadet Force program to students, a partnership with the Ministry of Defence which aims to foster a sense of leadership and self-discipline in young people.
Leighton prides itself on offering a holistic approach to learning, PROVIDING both the Bacalaureate and A Level exams as sixth form options. Beyond academic issues, Leighton adheres to the Quaker mission of understanding and fighting against social injustice by offering a number of community service activities to pupils. Notably, year ten students have the option of undertaking a rigorous academic and practical course called the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, where they conduct a detailed study into issues facing their own communities. These programs spur students into thinking critically about social injustices at a young age, and to learn how to problem solve around these issues – a necessary attribute of any future leader.
Leighton also offers the Duke of Edinburgh program, and became a license independent Duke of Edinburgh centre in 2017. A number of foreign trips are offered each year, exposing students to different cultures as they provide volunteer services in communities they aren’t familiar with.
All six of the schools discussed are meeting the challenge of the ever-changing working and academic world head on, equipping school leavers with the skills and confidence needed to navigate these exciting economic times.
This Bristol-based girls’ school boasts an ‘unusual teaching ethos’ and a ‘careful balance of intellectual firepower and courtesy and support’. The Duke of Edinburgh award is also offered at Badminton. Alongside this are a number of other ‘academic enrichment’ opportunities – including the opportunity for sixth form students to undertake a Certificate program in Food and Wine at Leiths Cookery School. This means that not only will sixth formers be graduating with the standard academic accolades, but also with high level practical cookery skills and a professional qualification.
Professional guidance is offered to those at sixth form level, with a high number of Badminton alumni earning places in Oxford and Cambridge, arguably the most prestigious universities in the world.
Students at Badminton are encouraged to take part in a number of weekend activities, including extra-curricular sports and societies, and social day trips, where the girls can learn to naturally enhance their social skills as well as their ability to work as part of a functioning team.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International