Chapter One



Before getting into the nuts and bolts of our new approach, it is worth offering a brief outline of where we are headed. Individual student goals will inevitably differ. Some seek to prepare themselves for higher education. Others may want a solid grounding for entering the workforce, either as employees or as entrepreneurs, and many will want to shift away from academic education in their final years in favour of apprenticeship in a skilled trade. However, despite these different paths, every student should develop the skills needed to play an informed, active role in society and to be part of the solution to the challenges of the 21st century. Those skills include critical thinking, creativity and independence of thought, entrepreneurship, some historical perspective on their own society and others, cultural awareness, and the character traits needed to maintain robust social relationships.5

Two concepts are central to creating well-rounded, thriving individuals. One is the notion of the “T-Shaped Learner,” who is endowed with a balance of broad knowledge and skills (the horizontal arm of the T) and deep understanding and experience of a few subjects or disciplines (the riser of the T). Our thinking on curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, laid out in the next few chapters, is developed with this in mind. Being T-Shaped is becoming a significant advantage in the workplace and living environment of the 21st century because it provides a combination of excellent communication and collaborative skills, real world experience and ability to innovate, learn and problem-solve.6

The second is the concept of Habits of Mind – ways of thinking that enable a learner to thrive throughout life. As Art Costa, Emeritus Professor of Education at California State University, Sacramento (and one of the originators of the concept) says, they are about “knowing how to behave intelligently when you don’t know the answer.” Establishing these Habits is, in many ways, the most fundamental goal of high school. These traits form the foundation of the education learners will need to prepare themselves for a rapidly changing world. Students who display these habits will be able to respond with confidence, vigor, and resiliency to whatever challenges the future throws at them. Learners should, for example, work on:

“Finnish education expert, Pasi Sahlberg, says the much lauded transformation of the Finnish education system came “at a reasonable cost.” So reasonable, in fact, that 98% of the cost of education at all levels is covered by government rather than by private sources.”

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