Research & Education

Oct 1, 2016

THE SUPERLATIVE EDUCATION: EDUCATION PHILOSOPHIES AROUND THE WORLD

Virtually, in addition to the quality of education, teaching methods and academic curriculum, what really matters to ambitious young people, and to their parents and educators, is the social circle they are in while students.

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The return to school already happened in the overwhelming majority of schools and countries, with or without the typical complications from the beginning of the school year, after the initial settings. The focus is now the school curricula, teaching methods and the schools where the best results can be achieved. Your VIP Partner prepared a short list of the world's best elite schools.

The most elitist in EUA

Phillips Exeter Academy, the most prestigious boarding school in the United States of America (USA) (according to BoardingSchoolReview.com), is featured by the so-called "Harkness" teaching method, elaborated and applied by this school, and that nowadays is practised a lot in several educational institutions all over the world. The method consists in an oval table, with 12 chairs around it, where a group of students and a teacher gather for a discussion resembling a Socratic debate, where the teacher (unlike a conventional class, where the teacher is distanced from the students and is their "superior") has a very inconspicuous role, intervening on occasion, and raising questions to incentivise the students to discover and develop solutions by themselves.

At Philips Exeter there are no desks for students. In the classroom, they sit at these oval tables with 12 chairs for the small academy groups, composed of one teacher and five students. This encouraging method has brought up such famous people as Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook), Dan Brown (author of bestsellers "The Da Vinci Code", "Angels and Demons", etc.), the philosopher Daniel Dennet, among many others.

Several North-American elite generations graduated from this boarding school, and almost all of them went to universities, with nearly a third of them going into the Ivy League (a group of the eight most prestigious private USA universities).

Phillips Exeter Academy is a coeducational independent boarding school, located in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA, that was founded in 1781 by Dr. John Phillips, a Harvard graduate, and a resident of Exeter. The main philosophy of this boarding school is the same from 200 years ago, "to link goodness with knowledge, developing the consciences, and training the minds of students so that they may serve society", according to the founder's words.

"The freshman you are hugging at campus is the one who later is sitting next to you in the Senate." – they like saying at Harvard.

The oldest in the world

The King's School of Canterbury, Kent, is considered to be the oldest continuously operating school in the world, founded in 597 AD. If the fact that this school is one of the best co-educational schools in the United Kingdom is indubitable, as far as its age is concerned, there aren't absolute certainties. However, there are some aspects associating the school to the Christian education. A century after the fall of the Roman Empire, in 597 AD, St. Augustine came to Canterbury to evangelise England, having probably established a school at this town, and it is from this institution that the contemporary King's School was developed.

This school has provided education to many famous people. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography contains more than 130 names of its graduates, among which are such prominent figures as W. Somerset Maugham, Sir Hugh Walpole, William Harvey, and many others.

The academic focus of the King's School is fixed on the broadest possible development of an individual, keeping the pace with the demands of the contemporary time, encouraging passion for learning.

The most traditional and the lowest-tech

Ironically, in the heart of Silicon Valley, in California, USA, we find the Waldorf of the Peninsula School, a school that follows with a "no-screen" philosophy, or in other words, where computers are prohibited. What is even more paradoxical, it's that many of the pupils here are children of the people that run some of the largest hi-tech companies in the world, such as Google, Apple and Yahoo. Here study the children of entrepreneurs, Stanford researchers, bankers, for whom it is not technology that will prepare their kids for a happy and successful life, but rather the interaction with good teachers, developing their capacities and skills for creative thinking, communication, and emotional intelligence. They are confident that when the time comes for their children to learn about technology, they can easily do it at home.

There are more than a thousand schools, in over 60 countries, using the Waldorf education method, also known as "Steiner education", named so after its founder, Rudolf Steiner, the father of anthroposophy. The base of the concept of the Waldorf of the Peninsula School is the holistic integration of intellectual, practical, and artistic development of the pupils. Their classes remain simple and traditional – blackboards with chalk, books and pencil-boxes on wooden desks, and shelves full of encyclopaedias.

The most expensive in the world

On a picturesque sheltered plateau, 1,250 metres above sea level, and high up in the traditional and charming chalets in the Swiss Alps, live the students of Aiglon College, situated in the French Alpine village of Chesières, next to the ski resort in Villars.

The Aiglon College is famous not only due to the perfect education it provides to its students, but also for being the most expensive school in the world – the yearly tuition for boarding students costs 89,750 USD (80.272 EUR).

This private co-educational boarding school was founded by the Englishman John C. Corlette, in 1949. Although it is an international school, the academic curriculum is based on the British boarding format, the lessons are taught in English, except for language and literature lessons.

An average class consists of eight to twelve pupils, and one teacher for every six students, with a total of 60 full-time, and 20 part-time teachers, whose objective is to ensure the holistic individual development of every student through academic, physical, cultural, and spiritual endeavours.

The school´s founder, John C. Corlette, was inspired by the philosophy of Kurt Hahn, a German educator who established the international organisation of schools "Round Square", of which Aiglon is a part. This philosophy consists of learning through six ideals: Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service (making the acronym IDEALS).

Aiglon College is also famous for its emphasis on adventurous activities, such as hiking (pupils are obliged to make six hiking expeditions per year), ski in wintertime, and mountain biking, canoeing, and rock climbing in summertime. According to the "Good Schools Guide International", Aiglon's education is quite "tough physically".

The most democratic and alternative

No tests, exams, evaluations or assessments - learning at their own pace. The students themselves determine what and how they learn, under the consultancy of teachers. Here, it is possible to have a flexible schedule, where students are responsible for their own work, and accountable for what they do. The main principle of this unusual school is "Non-Coercive, Holistic, Learner-Centred Education".

ALPHA Alternative School, in Toronto, Canada, was started in 1972 by a group of parents, and is still run as a "parent-teacher cooperative". The "Toronto District School Board" enables ALPHA to make its form of democratic education available to families of every income level, providing the pupils with the same level of education as other public schools of the country.

Along with students and teachers, parents play a key role at this school. All of them contribute with their talent, providing voluntary activities and sharing their skills. Parents are highly involved in the administrational part of the school's life, participating in decision making in different committees, as well as mentoring students, and sharing their expertise by working with students individually.

In the non-competitive environment of ALPHA School, the students learn the difference between "freedom and license", following the maximum of the British educator A. S. Neill. In ALPHA's multi-aged groups, individual teaching styles of innovative pedagogies are applied, such as "Montessori", critical pedagogy, experiential, and arts-based methods, in order to assure a holistic and individual approach to each single student.

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