Grades might get students into university, but it’s resilience, agility, independence, and cultural intelligence that get them through life. This is a fact Tanglin Trust School knows best. Little wonder why UK inspectors repeatedly describe it as “outstanding.”
Here, knowledge breaks the confines of classrooms to ensure ambitious learners receive a well-rounded education. This includes formative — and necessary — training for life’s unexpected slings and arrows. The school trains students to keep going during tough challenges, debilitating illnesses, financial uncertainties, and more — including a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
“Plants become strong when they experience storms and wind,” says Head of School Counselling Claire Holmes. “In the same way, children become resilient through experiencing and growing from challenges. Resilience is the ability to overcome difficult experiences and be shaped positively by them. While we cannot remove challenge, seeing obstacles as teachable moments to be learnt from builds resilience.”
A Tanglin education is packed with these teachable moments. Here’s how:
A resilient student can navigate a crisis or traumatic event. They have the know-how to recover from setbacks, to adapt, to progress. Most importantly they also achieve growth.
Is resilience a genetic trait — or can it be taught? In nearly every study or review of resilience in the past 50 years, the most significant determinant of resilience lies in the quality of our close personal relationships. How close we relate to our parents and primary caregivers — i.e. how loved we feel as a child — is a “great predictor” of how our adult selves can manage tough situations, according to Bessel van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University’s School of Medicine.
Recognising this, Tanglin ensures every student is made to feel valued, happy and successful. Even amid a pandemic, students can access counselling services, strengthening relationships, even when most of their peers and teachers are just faces on screens.
“For us School Counsellors, the technological learning curve bought on by the pandemic has been immense. Initially, we adapted quickly to navigating online platforms and learning how to use new applications,” says Holmes. “Our creativity was awakened, finding fresh, new ways to share supportive material virtually and have counselling conversations online.”
This seamless switch also showed students how to cope with adversity — with teachers and staff as prime examples. “This flux has left us with a greater capacity to embrace change gracefully and has gifted us with a lasting ability to be robust and adaptable in the face of uncertainty,” she adds. “This experience continues to help us support Tanglin’s students to smoothly flow with the unknown.”
“Our students have coped with so much change. For some, this has fostered an awareness of what they can control, as there is so much that they can’t,” explains Holmes. “Many share that the pandemic experience has strengthened connections, a delight in opportunities of face-to-face occasions with friends.”
Students at Tanglin aren’t taught to survive, but to thrive. Several initiatives ensure they do. For starters, the school has adopted the PERMAH model, which identifies six crucial aspects of wellbeing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and purpose, accomplishment and health
“Students all follow a PERMAH based character development programme in tutor time,” says Clare Anderson-Au, Head of Middle School (Year 7-10). These tutors are part of the large team of staff offering support to Tanglin students, which include nurses, counsellors, Heads of Year but most importantly there are Form Tutors. “Students meet each day with their Form Tutors who know the students well, both inside and outside of school. This is their first point of contact.”
However, the pastoral team makes the most significant impact by tracking and monitoring student wellbeing to a tee (there’s one for every level of study). They believe that academics are of little importance if students do not feel like the most capable versions of themselves.
“We provide them with the opportunity to explicitly learn and develop soft skills through our life skills curriculum, which runs from three to 18 years of age,” explains Deputy Head and Director of Pastoral Care, Richard Sellers.
“One of the most significant opportunities for students to learn life skills and put them into practice is through the variety of Co-curricular activities, House competitions and Outdoor Education initiatives.”
Sellers adds that these programmes are a safe and effective way to take students out of their comfort zone and challenge them. “This is where we see significant growth in our students. It helps them develop leadership, grit, resilience, and other key aspects for future success,” he says.
Examination results that consistently surpass both Singaporean and global averages aren’t the only reason to celebrate at Tanglin. Athletics are just as exciting and an integral part of the Tanglin curriculum and co-curriculum.
During the pandemic, Tanglin’s fresh strategic direction further improved its Movement Education programmes. They started by integrating parkour-style activities to help students develop and maintain athleticism as well as to promote “skill transfer” in an enjoyable and safe environment.
Meanwhile, “freestyle” movement was introduced to combine the swiftness of parkour, the power of tricking and the elegance of dance. Through Tanglin’s Movement Freestyle, athletes of all ages perform combinations of jumps, climbs, and swings to navigate “obstacles” swiftly.
The impact of this goes beyond the physical. Exercise temporarily raises stress hormones and so teaches our bodies to respond more efficiently, boosting resilience. Paired with a balanced diet, hydration and good sleeping habits, these activities are important coping strategies for resilience.
Commenting on how Tanglin prioritised the physical and mental health of students throughout the pandemic, Dave Radcliffe, Director of Sport, said: “We have adapted our sport programme and designed sessions so that students still get to enjoy the physical, social and emotional benefits of sport, despite the constraints on competition, groups sizes etc.”
“We have organised mini-leagues in different sports, when rules permitted, to give children opportunities to partake in friendly competition and a greater sense of ‘normality’.”
Tanglin may have 96 years of experience, but its progressive and ever-evolving nature proves its ability to provide an undisrupted, relevant and vibrant education. To learn more about one of Southeast Asia’s finest schools and how it provides growth and meaning to the lives of students, click here.