Redefining the skills students need to take on the world

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Published on 2023-01-23 at 12:59
Promoting open-minded dialogue and relationship building alongside academic excellence have always been at the heart of international education. Now, in an ever-changing learning landscape and a time of unprecedented global disruption, schools the world over are re-evaluating their educational approach to help students navigate these uncertain times. Dr David Brooke - Head of St John's International School in Brussels - explains how it's never been more important to embed compassion and resilience into education, and how his school is empowering young leaders with the skills to deal with unpredictability in a globally responsible way.

With students growing up in times of extreme uncertainty, it's never been more important for educators to instil a real sense of what it means to be a global citizen in today's Digital Age.

Key to this is to recognise the importance of helping young people not only excel academically, but also develop the skills that will help them beyond the classroom. And to achieve this while encouraging them to explore this increasingly interconnected world with an open and compassionate mindset.

Encouraging enquiring minds to be global citizens

As an international school in one of the world's most multicultural cities, the concepts of peace, purpose and passion have been in our DNA from the very start.  And, whilst high-quality education remains at the heart of our school, we also recognise how critical it is for young people to feel equipped to engage with real-world issues.

Having been an early adopter of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme in 1978, we're also one of a select group of schools in Brussels to ensure all pupils following the IB system throughout their time with us. Our expertise in this area helped our 2022 IB cohort achieve a 100% pass rate, of which half achieved the bilingual diploma; results that are consistently above the global average.

The St John's educational philosophy also reflects the IB programme's focus on championing independent research and encouraging students to explore global topics more deeply. In particular, we see helping students truly understand what it means to be human as key to helping prepare them for the future. 

This is one of the reasons that in recent years we introduced our popular Speaker Series; an inspiring programme of regular talks that are open to students, their families and the local community alike. And, with our distinguished speakers ranging from former Prime Ministers and MEPs to environment experts and Holocaust survivors, the events provide an opportunity for all of us to reflect on some of the key social and ecological challenges currently facing our world.

Why education is an evolving concept

Whilst we remain ambitious for our students academically, we recognise the role a balanced and broad curriculum plays in helping them develop a multi-faceted and adaptable skillset. At St John's, we achieve this by focusing our efforts around the three core pillars of academic excellence, sport, and performing arts.

Equally, we recognise that lifelong learning applies as much to us as a school as it does to our pupils. And, as part of our commitment to continually develop our own theory of education, we make a point of encouraging regular feedback from staff, students and parents to ensure we're delivering the best opportunities for everyone at St John's.

Over the last year we have therefore revisited St John's learning values to reframe what it means to best nurture students in an ever-challenging climate. And we have consolidated our learnings to ensure our school always remains a caring, creative and open-minded environment that puts the needs of our learning community first.

An Inspired network of international opportunities

One thing that shines through our teaching staff is a belief that St John's international focus shouldn't stop at the school gates. This commitment to helping expand our students' global mindset was a big reason why we joined the innovative Inspired Education network in 2016. 

As the leading global group of premium schools, Inspired connects over 780,000 students across 23 countries and 83 schools. From a student perspective, this gives them access to greater cultural interactions and new challenges, from exchange programmes to sports tournaments; an extra-curricular benefit that helps them find their passion, expand their confidence levels, and thrive. 

For our staff to be able to share best pedagogic practice with their international counterparts the world over also helps us ensure we are always aware of the newest teaching methods, and can ensure our students benefit from the most dynamic educational approaches. 

Ultimately, our role as teachers in such an international environment is to empower school children with the skills and mindset to succeed wherever their future takes them. And we're confident that our multicultural approach at St John's International School helps students realise their global potential.

Since 1964, St John's International School in Brussels ( has championed high-quality education. An early adopter of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, it is part of the global Inspired Education Group.