One of the advantages of being a small school is that all our students have a real opportunity to take part in the full range of sporting activities that a school has to offer. A good number of our students will have been on teams ranging from Football and Volleyball, from Touch to Bouldering. This year we are pleased to see that through a student initiative we have also included Ultimate Frisbee into our programme.
Our philosophy of participation in sport helps us to compete against international schools with far greater resources. In terms of numbers, we should perhaps be considered in the same light as David pitted against Goliath - a school of 270 against a schools of 1000 and more students.
This year our basketball team has built upon previous success and has gone further than ever with a play off final for the ISSFHK division 3 championship. They were a just few points short of winning the game which they were leading until the final quarter.
The touch teams have enjoyed further success this year with noteworthy results in the ISFFHK league. All three of our teams, U20 Girls, U14 Boys and U14 Girls ended the season with a medal for third place in their respective leagues.
However, success for our school is not simply measured by medals and trophies. We aim to have as many students as possible representing the school for sport. This year 61% of our students will have been on a school team for at least one sport and our aim is to get that percentage even higher as we believe sport can play a vital role in student development. My blog below discusses why.
Schools have long been battlegrounds for contending ideas about how best to prepare young people for the lives that await them in the world beyond formal education.
A central problem, always evident but growing now in visibility, is that, as societies become ever more complex and evolve at an ever more rapid rate, it becomes increasingly clear that there is simply far too much to cover, in the realms of both skills and content.
In the face of a swelling tide of knowledge and data, demanding often new and sometimes undreamt human talents and capacities, the question becomes: what needs prioritising above all else, given that there is a limit to what the school curriculum can possibly address?
Over the past decade, the constant quickening of global change has prompted the answer to this question. Priorities are beginning to emerge. This aspect of our lives, this continual acceleration, is obvious to all, and its effects in schools and, particularly, on curriculum design are equally evident.
It is apparent now that, for the most part, there is no point in teaching lesson content as if it were reflective of a permanent and unalterable state of affairs in the world or our understanding of it. Indeed, to do so is positively counterproductive.
Textbooks seem a progressively more forlorn and outmoded means of encapsulating knowledge. At best, they contain information that, while valid, is superseded by new developments and new understandings; at worst, these new understandings reveal textbook knowledge as just plain wrong. Teachers who unduly rely on them find their lessons caught out by the unremitting churn of disruptive new knowledge.
Outside of a very few subjects such as physics and mathematics, which deal, it seems, with genuinely elemental axioms of the cosmos, the likelihood that today’s teachings will remain urgent or, even, sufficient by the time school students take up their careers is very small.
Two imperatives emerge from this reality of twenty-first century life.
First, the need to identify, as far as possible – and with a mind uncluttered by past prejudices – the genuinely foundational concepts that underpin understanding in human experience and action.
Second, the need to promote the habits of mind and of personality that equip people to keep on learning: to remain curious and inquiring, even if it means junking erstwhile beliefs; to accommodate the reordering of personal thought patterns and opinions in the face of new evidence; to embrace the short term stress and anxiety that often accompany adaptations in worldview; to conjure up the energy to meet the challenge of novel experiences, which are pretty much always more demanding and arduous than routine thinking and well rehearsed performances.
Addressing both imperatives is the responsibility of every department, every subject specialist, every teacher in school.
We must ask ourselves persistently, what really matters, what concepts do students really need to master, what processes and systems must they really understand, where should our emphases lie, and how can we support them in grasping the links and associations between concepts within and between different knowledge domains?
How can we encourage a love of learning, a growth mindset, a willingness to remain cognitively agile and open-minded?
Underlying the answers to this second set of questions – questions concerning students’ orientation to the challenges of learning, of their readiness to put themselves through the rigours of learning, of their remaining open to learning even as their knowledge base grows – is the ability of school to promote a particular character type.
This is the personality who is characterised by ambition, courage, determination, resilience, self-discipline, endurance, agility, realism and, above all, the will to contend. In short, the self-belief and resolve to give things a go.
No area of the curriculum is better positioned to explore, develop and deliver these attributes than physical education and sport. In engaging in sport, students experience in condensed form the challenges and stresses of everyday life. They experience the quickened heart rate, the heightened awareness, the increased breathing, the taut nerves and the sudden surges in power that teach them both who they are and who, at their strongest, they can be.
Sport invites participants to take on the activity, the challenge, the match, the competition, the contest … but, just as importantly, as an integral part of that engagement, it invites them to take on themselves. To face down their qualms and fears, to dig deep into reserves of spirit and energy, to fail and to get up and to try again, to find a place within a team and to deliver on its particular demands, to show grace when leading and fortitude when falling behind.
And once these challenges are encountered in a sporting setting – once they are mastered on the football or rugby pitch, in a fencing competition, at a show-jumping event, on the bouldering wall, in the last stretch of a 10km run, as the clock runs down on the basketball court – then they can transfer to the rest of our lives, to the mindset we bring to our daily affairs, to the routine ways in which we conduct ourselves as contenders in a world of challenge and reward.
Here is the supreme promise of sport in school. Everyone is entitled to learn from it.