Going the Extra Mile

This article has been published in Expat Society, February 2020.

Harrow International School Bangkok has much in common with its famous affiliate in the UK—and it’s not just the boaters and blazers. While keen to preserve traditions of excellence, like its alma mater it is always looking to improve and is prepared to innovate to remain at the forefront of schools offering a world-class education in Thailand.

Harrow Bangkok leadership team discuss High Performance Learning

PERFORMANCE INDICATORS (from left) Harrow Bangkok Head of Upper School Jonny Liddell, Head Master Jon Standen and Head of Lower School Nicholas Prockter.

This commitment to the constant evaluation of the education offered at Harrow Bangkok is articulated by headmaster Jon Standen who says “Our ethos has always been to develop the whole student and by that I mean not only his or her academic abilities but also their worth as individuals so that they make useful leaders in the wider world. This is why we have become the first school in Thailand to adopt the High Performance Learning programme, an enquiry-based approach to education based on the latest scientific research in the fields of neuroscience and psychology that will augment our existing curriculum.”

Standen adds, “As a world-class school it is our responsibility to secure the best exam results possible - which I’m proud to say we do on a consistent basis - but we also have a duty to produce students who can think for themselves, who are intellectually and socially confident, work-place and life-ready, with a global outlook and empathy for others.”

That the world is changing at a rapid pace - becoming more information-saturated and globally connected - is evident in almost every facet of life, which is why High Performance Learning (HPL) recognises that the way children learn must move with the times. Developed in the UK and first rolled out to schools there in 2010, HPL begins with the premise that all children, regardless of age and latent academic ability, are capable of enhanced learning. As respected educational writer and influential professor Deborah Eyre, founder of the HPL philosophy says, “The brain is more malleable than we thought. In short, we can make ourselves more intelligent. It takes good schooling, good parenting, and dedication and hard work by students.”

At the core of HPL are 20 advanced cognitive performance (ACPs) characteristics that range from critical thinking and seeing alternative perspectives to self-regulation and multi-step problem-solving. Also key to the HPL framework are 10 values, attitudes and attributes (VAAs) designed to foster positive behavioural traits in young minds. These are a willingness to collaborate, concern for society, confidence, resilience, curiosity, creativity, open-mindedness, an ability to evaluate and take on risks, a willingness to practise and finally perseverance.

Jonny Liddell, head of the Upper School at Harrow Bangkok, emphasises the importance of these pillars of education when he says, “Successful learning isn’t just about book-smarts. The most effective forms of education are underpinned by the development of behavioural qualities such as empathy, agility of mind and a strong work ethic. The 10 VAAs within High Performance Learning help us - teachers and parents together - to build on our school’s already excellent pedagogical foundations. As we adopt HPL over the academic year we are instructing staff on the relevant neuroscience, cognitive psychology and teaching techniques involved. By term three we will have developed curriculum plans to explicitly teach VAAs and ACPs across all subjects where appropriate.”

The ultimate aim at Harrow Bangkok is that HPL becomes embedded in the DNA of the entire school and head of the Lower School Nicholas Prockter stresses that the earlier students are introduced to the programme’s thinking skills the better. “We want HPL to be the language of learning from Early Years through to Sixth Form. We are gradually introducing these thinking processes in the lessons of our younger students and already we can see encouraging outcomes - a greater willingness to form and voice opinions, to critically evaluate evidence and see other perspectives and so on. The students don’t have to be right but they deserve - and receive - praise for participating. We are trying to inculcate a desire in our youngsters to learn not only for the sake of academic achievement but also for the sheer enjoyment of it and the valuable skills it will give them in later life.”