Every detail of the new Shattuck St Mary’s Forest City International School in Malaysia (SSM) was designed to create an environment where children can thrive. This purpose-built campus includes learning spaces and resources that support the latest innovations in teaching and learning.
The one-size-fits-all education system that relies on rote learning and standardised tests has lost relevance in the information age. As we head into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where mass-scale automation would make the learning of hard skills alone obsolete, it’s more important than ever for children to understand how to learn.
It’s been hard for many schools to keep pace with the breadth and speed of change. But SSM has an edge. With its 160-years of academic rigor and innovation, started by its parent school in Minnesota, as well as a holistic teaching philosophy, educators at SSM are well-versed in 21st century skills and learning goals.
“A knowledge-based curriculum that is taught via teacher-centered lectures and memorized by rote is usually a joyless educational experience and rarely helps students to much more than obtaining a top score on the next test,” said Head of School, Dr. Gregg Maloberti.
“The love of learning comes only to those students who learn the skills to create their own understanding by learning to ask questions, by developing trust with classmates and teachers, and by having the chance to test their knowledge on an ongoing basis through projects and presentations rather than a single test on a given day.”
It’s an opinion backed by the leading educators of today. Howard Gardner, Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard, said children learn using “multiple intelligences” while Elliott Eisner, Professor at Stanford University and a leading theorist in arts education, says: “The arts are natural to a childhood way of learning that is unlike the traditional verbal approaches alone.”
One SSM feature that prioritises this progressive method of learning is the weCreate® program. As ingenuity in a fluid landscape becomes necessary, creativity is being recast as a prized and teachable skill. Students can choose from a range of studios in the weCreate® Center. Some will explore robotics or coding, while others might try animation or fashion design.
The weCreate® Center provides something for everyone, from high tech equipment like digital printers and sophisticated software to screw drivers and sewing machines. Students have access to the tools and techniques they need to build models and prototypes, designed by imagination and created by passion.
In an IBM survey of 1,500 chief executives in 33 industries, creativity was the factor deemed to be most crucial to success. The World Economic Forum also lists it as one of the top ten skills workers need to benefit from the changes that will take place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will bring about an avalanche of new products, technologies and working methods.
Every child should be able to let their creativity run free and succeed in their future careers, and SSM intends to make this a reality for students through this program.
As a space and philosophy that stresses creativity, collaboration and innovation, the weCreate® program lets kids at SSM nurture their artistic and innovative side, which in turn makes them better learners. A truly international cohort of teachers – half of whom are American, the rest from the Philippines, the UK, Australia, Germany, Singapore and Malaysia – are experienced experts in the American curriculum, striving to guide and not dictate.
“Our school offers many unique features including the weCreate® program that invites students to tap their imagination, explore their creativity and develop innovative ideas and bring them to fruition,” said Dr Maloberti.
To create an inspiring environment, SSM built a facility where students can dabble in everything from digital production and fashion design to robotics, electronics and engineering – all in a fun and playful setting. Actively learning and playing in such manner is an effective way to get students involved and capture their interest. It’s hard to argue for a better way for the budding film director, animator, fashion designer, engineer or innovator to pursue their passions.
“Our students explore their own creativity as a means of identifying and igniting their passion for learning. The process is different for every student, but the goal is the same for all: we want our students to be internally driven to discover their abilities and to fulfil their dreams.” said Head of School, Dr. Gregg Maloberti.
SSM’s diversity is another important component in fostering innovation. With students coming from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Canada, the UK and the USA, this is a truly international campus. It’s a unique environment where children learn to be responsible global citizens, but also cultivate something even more important: multiple perspectives.
By examining the world from multiple perspectives and accepting that there can be more than one right way to solve a problem, students learn that people from different cultures may think differently but can still work together.
As Dr Maloberti explains, “Students who can master these skills in their school days will become tomorrow’s innovators and leaders.”