As we barrel on into the future, one thing has become readily apparent: the importance of thinking critically about the world.
We live in an era where knowledge and information are as unfiltered as it is widespread. It’s a direct result of our quickly advancing society, one which is constantly pushing the boundaries of what we know.
It’s a far cry from a millennia ago — or perhaps even a few decades ago, when a profession like farming would have only been limited to planting seeds and tending fields. Now, an average farmer has unfettered access to research, allowing them to make data-driven decisions that will lead to optimal results.
Today, everyone, no matter their career, is put in a position where decision-making is paramount to the success of their careers. With this begs a need for individuals who can analyse, interpret, and evaluate the information they’re presented with to succeed in this endeavour — in other words, it requires critical thinking skills.
This is what students are taught in the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) aspect of their International Baccalaureate (IB). Through TOK, students are prompted to question what they know and how they have come to this conclusion. They gain both theoretical and practical knowledge about how the world around them works and can gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions as a result.
It’s an aspect of learning that Shanghai Community International School (SCIS) does well.
“Through Theory of Knowledge, students come to appreciate that knowledge is not simply information, but something they forge themselves through critical interaction with and interpretation of the information,” explains Emmet Dunphy, Upper School Head of Language & Literature and Individuals & Societies at the SCIS campus in Pudong. “They become more adept at and confident in not merely engaging critically with the claims to knowledge of others, but also interrogating their own assumptions and beliefs.”
The TOK is assessed through two aspects: an essay and an oral assignment (the TOK Exhibition). “In the assessment component, students work towards and produce, their aim is not solely to present a position in response to a question or prompt, but to deconstruct and examine the reasoning and knowledge they used to come to that position,” adds Dunphy.
This is a key component that drives SCIS’s focused academic curriculum. As an IB Continuum World School, it integrates the IB into every aspect of a student’s learning, from primary years up until their eventual IB diploma programme. Through this, students are encouraged from an early age to become holistic, culturally aware and independent thinkers.
The IB diploma itself is centred around six subjects to study, which requires students to select one science, one maths and a second language. SCIS takes this further. Students are not without choice, being able to pick from six subject groups across the arts, languages and literature, sciences, mathematics, and individuals and societies, among others.
There’s also a 4,000-word extended essay, community service and, of course, the TOK. All in all, the IB provides a learning experience that allows a student to develop academically and personally — and there’s no doubt that SCIS is one of the best schools in the world to do it.
Outside of the IB, SCIS is a world-class international school for students aged two to 18. It has three campuses across Shanghai, all with purpose-built school facilities and flexible learning spaces. These include: 25-metre length swimming pools, two-storey 700 seat auditoriums, a 10,000 square foot Black Box theatre, rock climbing walls, indoor basketball courts, science and computer labs, outdoor jungle gym playgrounds, and more.
Students are taught in small classrooms and are supported by 213 faculty members, all of whom are certified in their areas of instruction and 88 of whom hold master’s degrees.
Through this, it is clear that SCIS is dedicated to providing the best possible environment for its students to thrive academically, with plenty of room for self-development. It’s this attitude that has attracted a wide range of students from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia.
SCIS’s IB-focused curriculum has produced strong results. Many SCIS graduates hold the highest 45 IBDP score and has twice as many top ranked IBDP scores than the world average. All — 100% — students are accepted to universities in over 23 different destinations. 15% are accepted to the top 10 universities worldwide, including the University of Cambridge, the Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Imperial College London, and more.
All of this combined has ensured that SCIS has gained worldwide recognition and praise. It’s accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and a member of the East Asia Conference of Overseas Schools (EARCOS) and the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS).
Most importantly, however, it speaks to the school’s ability to produce capable, intelligent and socially aware global citizens — all of whom are paving the way to become the world’s next generation of leaders and movers in their fields.