Forward-Thinking Education: Create, Learn, Enrich - International School Bangkok (ISB)

November 13, 2020
Nae Nae Montawan

In order to prepare students for the challenges in the 21st century, schools now have to adapt, adjust and advocate for new learning styles that would best equip students with the necessary skills for the uncertain future. 

International School Bangkok (ISB) - one of the leading international schools in Asia - focuses on meaningful and transferable learning, and develops in students key attributes and values, to ensure they have the tools to flourish in our ever changing world. 

“Above all else, education must be about preparing students to make a positive impact on our world and our aims are very much captured by the words of educational scholar, Howard Gardner, when he writes – ‘I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place.’

- Dr. Andy Davies Head of School, International School Bangkok (ISB)

5 main approaches ISB takes to equip students with necessary skills to excel in the 21st Century

1. Redefining the definition of learning

In the past, many people interpreted the idea of “learning” at school as studying for exams and as a pathway to university. However, it is evident that learning at school should be more than that. School is a place for students to explore new things, uncover their hidden potential and form lifelong friendships. 

At ISB, the definition of learning extends beyond the standard classroom learning experience where students study to prepare for exams. ISB focuses on the application of knowledge, skills and attitudes. There are 6 main areas of learning that the school seek to educate students to be able to turn their ideas and knowledge into actions:

1) Apply learning to new situations: the value of knowledge is not what one knows, but how one applies it. ISB strives to educate students to learn not only “what”, but “how” the knowledge can be applied outside of the classrooms.

2) Inquire to extend our learning: the classroom environment should foster intellectual curiosity within students, empowering them to ask questions beyond what is taught.

3) Create solutions: educating students to create new solutions is a crucial skill for the 21st century, as there are many unanswered questions and uncertainties that lie ahead.

4) Communicate our learning effectively to others: communication skills is one of the most important skills for the 21st century as well. ISB emphasizes students’ ability to effectively articulate their ideas to others, whether it be peers or adults. This can be done through various ways; for example, having students deliver their speeches, participate in class discussions or create presentations. 

5) Make connections across our learning: interdisciplinary learning is crucial for students in the 21st century. Unknown fields of work are emerging, and the ability to adapt and find the intersection between different disciplines is becoming increasingly significant.

6) Reflect critically on our learning: ISB emphasizes the importance of self-reflection. Giving students to reflect upon their knowledge and skills is as important as giving students new knowledge. Students who graduate from schools should be able to critically reflect upon their experiences.

2. Abundant Opportunities: learning outside of the classroom

Giving students abundant opportunities to explore their interests since an early age is very crucial for their self-development. The school recognizes the importance of “learning” outside of the classroom, through various activities. 

As a result, ISB fosters an environment that encourages students to explore extracurricular activities, including community service, music, sports, drama, technology and the arts. The school specifically dedicates a time during the school day, three times a week, for club meetings, and students have the time after school to participate in extracurricular activities as well. They also have their own Environmental Wilderness Campus offering outdoor education programs. 

Schools should also be open to students’ ideas: ISB Technology Council was founded by a group of high school students who are passionate about technology. Over the past few years, this all student-led council has organized an annual Inter-School Technology Conference, bringing together students from various schools around bangkok to participate, and successfully received funding from the Board of Trustees to fund the Virtual Reality classroom integration. Because of the school’s belief in students’ potential, many new and innovative ideas were created by students, which prepare them for any challenges they may face in the 21st century.

21st century schools should recognize and celebrate students' abilities across areas, not just the academics. At ISB, students are awarded end-of-year awards, that range from academic achievements, community service, music, language, dance, to the arts. Students are recognized for their ability to excel in all areas, as the school believes that knowledge is not limited to academic grades in classrooms.

3. Project-Based Learning: the importance of learning by doing

Project-based learning enables students to develop both hard and soft skills through executing projects. The skills fostered via project-based learning include collaboration, problem solving, creativity, self-confidence and critical thinking, that cannot be fostered through textbooks alone. Through project-based learning, students are able to make meaning in authentic ways. These skills are essential for the success of students in the 21st century. Thus, project-based learning serves as an appropriate approach to the Future of Education that will prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century. 

Project-based learning is embedded throughout all the units of study, in each subject area - ISB is teaching a process for learning how to learn. A more direct example is ISB’s Design, Technology and Engineering courses which it offers to its students, preparing them for the world of innovation and technology in the 21st century. Through these courses, students get to create their own products using computer-aided-design and manufacturing techniques.

4. Digital Classrooms: Interactive Online Learning

It is evident that COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology within classrooms. Many schools have experienced the change in setting for their classes to virtual classrooms and adopted new technology and tools to enhance the students’ learning. Learning in the 21st century will inevitably involve the use of technology, not only to increase accessibility to education but to enhance students’ learning.

ISB believes that technology plays an important role in advancing the learning experience for students. Schools in the 21st century must be prepared for the digital disruption. Digital literacy, wellbeing and digital citizenship are vital parts of this, as well as providing access to the many tools available and online course offerings. Digital school management systems, video platforms, online classrooms and VR are a few of the tools ISB uses. ISB is also a part of the Global Online Academy (GOA) in their High School.

5. Caring Community: school is a place where students, teachers, parents and staff feel they belong

School should be a place where students feel comfortable learning, exploring and making mistakes. Creating a caring school culture is extremely important for students’ learning and development in the 21st century. Ways to do that include:

  • Supportive Teachers: teachers should be the ones students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their ideas. Teachers serve as mentors, helping provide the necessary support for students.
  • Hosting Parent-Teacher Conferences: at ISB, parent-teacher conferences are hosted every semester, providing opportunities for parents to visit the school and teachers, follow-up on how their child is doing. This is a collaborative effort between the school, teachers and parents to help students excel in school.
  • Service Learning: Service learning is embedded into the curriculum at ISB and it fosters global citizenship and a genuine care and respect for others, and the planet.
  • Encourage community activities: through community service activities within the school community, such as the ISB English Service Project (a student-led club that provides free English language lessons to over 70 Thai guards, custodians and bus staff three times a week), the relationship between students, teachers and staff at school are strengthened and the language barrier is reduced. Supporting activities that increase interaction between people within the school community will help make the learning environment more comfortable. 
  • Counselling Services: taking care of students’ well-being, both physically and emotionally, should be the school’s priority. Offering counselling services to students, both for emotional and academic support, will help students navigate their time at school with ease, feeling more comfortable to discuss their problems with adults.
  • Open Campus: ISB maintains an open campus, where the facilities are open to the community at all times, and this adds to the welcoming culture in the school

Creating a community where students enjoy learning, forming meaningful relationships and seeking solutions to improve our society is the ultimate goal of an education institute.

These five approaches are only a few of many that a school can do to prepare students for the 21st century. Stay tuned for the Education Disruption Conference 2 where ISB will be featured in the School of The Future section, discussing Forward-Thinking Education in more detail.

About ISB

ISB was established in 1951 as the first international school in Thailand. ISB’s vision is [to enrich] communities through the intellectual, humanitarian and creative thoughts and actions of our learners. Over the years, ISB has grown into a community that fosters intellectual curiosity and prepares students for lifelong learning. Graduates have gone on to make an impact in various sectors around the world. 

To learn more about ISB, please visit

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