Isobel Lee, the Deputy Head and the International Curricula Coordinator at GIIS gets candid about how she keeps students at the centre of learning
I graduated with a degree in Biological Sciences, which I’ve always been passionate about. I decided to train to become a teacher so I could share the wonders and complexity of the natural world with my students. Although I began teaching in London, I had a strong desire to experience different cultures and share my love of learning with students from around the world. This started my international teaching journey over the course of 25 years. After teaching at many fantastic schools across Europe, I moved to Singapore and recently started a new chapter as the International Curricula Coordinator and Deputy Head at GIIS.
How do you think schools (and teaching) are different today compared to 25 years ago?
Teaching pedagogies have evolved over time. Now, there is much more emphasis on teachers collaborating with their students and guiding them so that they can take responsibility for their own learning. As an IB educator for more than 20 years, I have found that a spirit of discovery and inquiry is paramount for students. Teachers act as facilitators and provide the tools and resources to support them in constructing their own understanding and developing their critical thinking skills. Here at GIIS, this is made even easier thanks to the IB curricula for primary students (IB PYP) and the DP (IB Diploma Programme) for secondary students; modern facilities and a learning environment that promotes 21st-century skills. Students are able to explore a wide range of new experiences from culinary art, radio jockeying and design technology to theatre and musical performances in our custom-built studios, and also choose to attend AI, coding and robotics workshops on our campus based on their interests. We know that students today are growing up as digital natives, so being able to leverage the power of technology to support them in their learning and go beyond the curriculum is so rewarding.
GIIS’ IBDP results are among the best in Singapore this year. What do you attribute this to?
We’re so proud and happy for our IBDP students who completed their exams in May this year. In spite of the challenges of virtual classes and the re-arrangement of their activities and schedules, they have shown immense resilience and have achieved a milestone in their educational journey. In fact, we’ve had 50% of our graduating cohort receiving 40 grade points or above this year. We’ve also had a record number of students achieving top scores of 45/45 (11 students) and near-perfect scores of 44/45 (12 students) with the school average going up to a record 38.5 points! Our IBDP teachers have been extremely supportive of our students in these unprecedented times, providing them with virtual alternatives whenever needed, and ensuring that students were not affected in any way by the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Being strong in academics is great, how does GIIS offer a well-balanced education to students?
Some things remain as important as they always have been and that is for children to grow into well rounded, happy and healthy young adults. GIIS strongly believes that this is as important as academic success which is why our proprietary 9GEMS pedagogical framework was created. This framework balances academic excellence with holistic opportunities for growth in nine different areas – sports, visual and performing arts, innovation and creativity, entrepreneurship, leadership, community care, personality and skill development. Students are given opportunities throughout the year to participate in activities, events and experiences in each area, based on their personal interests and their progress is closely monitored.
Students are also actively involved with external organisations that allow them to serve the community in various ways, ranging from charity drives for deserving causes to green initiatives that benefit the environment. A great mentor of mine used to tell his students to “aim high and get involved,” and the opportunity for this is exactly what GIIS nurtures so well.
What is your favourite learning space in the school and why?
With such a vibrant and busy school, I like to sometimes find the more peaceful areas to spend a few minutes. One of my favourite spaces has to be the nest area around the fountains where I and many students walk around, breathe in the fresh air, renew and focus. However, if I want to be invigorated, I visit the Primary wing of the school where our IB PYP students gather. Here the atmosphere is very cheerful and energetic with students busying themselves with the very important task of learning through various hands-on learning engagements!
What do you enjoy most about your current role in GIIS?
Being part of the school’s vision and mission to be a global role model for teaching and learning, and to ensure that students are always at the centre of learning and decision-making when it comes to their learning goals. This dedication to the empowerment of students to reach their goals and aspirations and being able to see it put into practice every day, and at every age level, is very important to me. The longer I work at GIIS, the prouder I am of the school!
Of course, you’ve got to love the warm and friendly atmosphere that the students, staff and parents create. The colourful vibrancy of the different cultures permeating throughout the campus makes this school an excellent choice for every parent looking for a truly international experience for their child.
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