Mission/Vision

Will you be an Anvil or a Hammer?

The end of the school year is always a time of mixed emotions, especially for high school graduates who look to their futures with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

At ISP, like many schools, graduation is a truly joyous occasion. Families and friend from throughout the world come to Prague to join in on the celebration. We are fortunate to hold our graduation ceremony at the grand and ornate Zofin Palace, built in the 1830’s and named after Princess Sophie (Žofie in Czech), mother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. The hall in which we hold our graduation ceremony has a rich social and musical history. Antonín Dvořák held his first concert here in 1878. Berlioz, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Wagner appeared in concerts in the palace as well.  

As I do each year, I had an opportunity to address the graduates and assembled guests. The theme this year’s talk was the “educated citizen.”

As parents we often try to see the world through the eyes of our own children. As educators seeing the world through the eyes of our students is an important part of our job. I’ve wondered lately what sense our students and especially our graduates, who are about to step out into the world, make of all the news, the alerts, the tweets  and posts they constantly receive. Of course they discuss what’s happening in the world at school, in class, with teachers and with their friends and peers. But what do they make of the constant news they hear, often bad… of brutal wars, blatant corruption, senseless violence…in many cases involving kids your own age. 

I am aware that their reaction can be a tendency, with good reason, to try to tune it out, like so much annoying background noise, or simply because it can feel overwhelming. But I ask you please, don’t tune it out…because as educated citizens we all need to try to understand the world as it is and help to shape it as it should be. Furthermore, each of you, no matter where you come from or where you are going, have a responsibility to take what you have learned and will learn and use it to, as we say at ISP, to contribute responsibly to our changing world. Because truth is that no matter what you do, you will play a role, you will have an impact

John Stuart Mill, the English philosopher and economist put it this way: “A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.”

In simple terms, if we are witness to harm being caused to an individual or group, we should act and get involved in any way we can.  And because you are educated young people, the gift of your education, bestows some responsibilities on how you interact with the world.

I would like to read an excerpt from a speech delivered by John F Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, speaking to the class of 1963 at Vanderbilt University. His words, spoken over 50 years ago, when the civil rights movement was raging and the Vietnam War was growing, are as relevant to us today as they were during those turbulent times. The truth is that turbulent times are not limited to our era, we are not unique, the difference is when I was growing up, I had to make an effort to find out about the news of the day by reading the daily paper or listing to the radio or watching to the news on TV. Just to set the record straight, TVs did exist when I was growing up!

“You have responsibilities, to use your talents for the benefit of the society which helped develop those talents. You must decide, as Goethe put it, whether you will be an anvil or a hammer, whether you will give to the world in which you were reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education.

If the pursuit of learning is not defended by the educated citizen, it will not be defended at all. For there will always be those who scoff at intellectuals, who cry out against research, who seek to limit our educational system.

But the educated citizen knows how much more there is to know. He knows that knowledge is power — more so today than ever before. He knows that only an educated and informed people will be a free people; that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all; Therefore the educated citizen has a special obligation to encourage the pursuit of learning, to promote exploration of the unknown, to preserve the freedom of inquiry, to support the advancement of research, and to assist at every level of government the improvement of education for all.

The educated citizen has an obligation to serve the public. He may be a precinct worker or a president. He may give his talents at the courthouse, the state house, the White House. He may be a civil servant or a senator, a candidate or a campaign worker, a winner or a loser. But he must be a participant and not a spectator.

I urge all of you today, especially those who are students, to act — to enter the lists of public service.

Any educated citizen who seeks to subvert the law, to suppress freedom, or to subject other human beings to acts that are less than human, degrades his inheritance, ignores his learning, and betrays his obligations.”

Now I am aware that Kennedy’s words were spoken within the historical context of his time, but they do carry a message for us to heed today. I urge our graduates to consider the educational opportunity you have been given and will be afforded in your future. 

I am confident that each of you have bright futures ahead of you. Each of you will take different paths in life. Ultimately each of you will make choices which will shape who you will become and how you will impact the world around you. As Anne Frank wrote

The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

What will you do with your gifts and with what you have learned and how will you take your place in the world as an educated citizen?

I leave you with the words of the great Jane Goodall who honored us with her presence last year last year at ISP

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Jane Goodall at ISP December 2016

 

To Succeed in the 21st Century We Need To Learn, Unlearn and Re-learn

Below is my full interview with Czech Leaders Magazine appearing in the January – March 2017 issue.

Imagine the atmosphere of a school where there is a palpable sense of creative thinking, where one can see the arts, choirs, music and film production, and at the same time a clear focus on scientific experimentation. Imagine life as a student being able to experiment, design and then print out your blueprint on a 3D printer or a laser cutter as part of the school curriculum. Imagine that a student can take part in an international robotics competition hosted at his school by day and being on stage singing blues in a Cabaret performance involving students, staff, parents and friends of the school by night.

I was not touring a school in Finland or Singapore, the two countries currently recognized as having the world’s the best educational systems. These were, rather, my immediate impressions after visiting the International School of Prague, which overlooks the Prague Šárka valley nature reserve.

Interviewing Dr. Arnie Bieber, ISP Director, turned from a traditional question and answer format into a lively discussion.

As Arnie truly lives and breathes the ISP mission “Inspiring Learners for Life”, I could sense his passion for an inspiring, engaging and empowering education organically engrained into every activity, including proud presentation of the school to visitors, talking about current and potential partnerships as well as embedding school activities within the local community. The last element is very important for ISP, as both private and international schools are often judged as being too distant and dislocated from the local environment.

Arnie, today’s world is changing rapidly. In fact, uncertainty is perhaps the only certain element. How do you prepare students for the future to succeed in professions and disciplines that might not even exist today?

We truly regard ourselves as a future-focused school, and we aim to be preparing future citizens of the world. If you look at our mission, which you can see all around the school, you will notice three key elements: Inspire, Engage and Empower. Our core purpose is to “Inspire learners to lead healthy, fulfilling and purposeful lives” and we know that we are successful when our graduates live their lives in this manner.

The element of our mission linked to facing an uncertain future is addressed in the second part of the mission, “preparing students to adapt and contribute responsibly to our changing world”. However, the ability to change and to adapt is not enough without a moral compass. The world may have very many smart people but do they have integrity and act ethically? No learning institution should stress one while neglecting the other. The ISP experience revolves around “engaging our diverse community in authentic global education within a nurturing student-centred environment”. Diversity is very important. Our student body, comprised of 60 different nationalities, brings a multitude of different religions and cultures to our campus. To interact and learn with such diversity is very powerful because it allows for an appreciation of our differences. Future successful leaders need to understand and respect differences, such as those based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, belief or culture.

What would your argument be for the adults who went to traditional schools in the Czech Republic who cannot imagine a serious and enjoyable education at the same time?

The distinction between something being relevant and something being rigorous or challenging is a false one. We believe that the best path to learning which is not superficial and meaningful is often through relevance. We can all remember our high school algebra, trigonometry and advanced calculus, but did what we learn have relevance to our lives? How much do we even actually remember? It is not that these subjects are not important, but they should be taught so that students understand how it is personally relevant to them. Otherwise, you only play the game of school. The rules go like this – you memorize all you can, you pass a test and then you go on and often forget most of what you had to memorize. Such an approach does not support learning of relevant skills for the future.

So let us be more specific, what are the competencies that future citizens should have?

They are addressed in our mission as well. They include the ability to: Think Critically and Creatively, Work Cooperatively and Independently and Listen and Communicate Effectively. Notice the element of effective listening, not only speaking, as is often stressed. When it comes to our central values, notice the verb to act. At ISP, the expectation is that we act with compassion, integrity, respect and intercultural understanding in school and throughout our lives. To sum up all that we have discussed so far, we care deeply about the foundational literacies such as reading, writing, arithmetic etc. However if this is primarily what a student has attained, we have failed as a school in this day and age. Students need so much more to succeed, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and well as collaborating well with others. Furthermore, as a school, staying current with how the world is changing is more important than ever. If you look at successful companies, they are changing all the time, they expect innovation but in the school environment, such an approach is not always considered important.

We discussed skills. However, the newest approach to adult learning is focused more on talents. So should we develop what we are not good at to become mediocre, or rather concentrate on what goes easy for us to become excellent?

I do not think the debate should be either talent or skills. Being an effective listener is not necessarily a talent. If you are not an effective listener, should you be one? And how can you become one? Perhaps you do not work well with other people. Well, you can work alone but you cannot be very successful unless you learn to work with others. But the answer to your question lies in personalized learning. Education should not be one size fits all. We are all unique human beings with unique talents. The best schools help students to follow both their talents and their passions. Sometimes your passions do not necessarily need to be your talents. The idea is for each learner to discover who they are and for to help them to discover that and develop further. That is why we talk about being purposeful, since you cannot be fulfilled in your life without being purposeful, and you cannot be purposeful unless you are self-aware of your abilities.

Following on the importance of science, there is currently a heated debate in the Czech Republic without giving priority to mathematics and technical subjects to the detriment of humanities, arts not being even mentioned a relevant part of the curriculum. What is your view?

Well, there has been a distinction made between ‘STEM’ and ‘STEAM’ subjects (‘STEAM’ stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) while ‘STEM’ is missing the arts. We are more inline with the ‘STEAM’ approach. As a school we of course offer the traditional sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology and environmental science as well as design thinking, and extensive technology such as programing, computer science and robotics. In fact we have just hosted an international robotics competition where students from around the world have competed in designing, creating, programming and running their own robots. These are the 21st century skills and I would argue that the arts play as an important role as the “hard sciences.” Whether or not you become an artist, the arts, visual arts, drama or music will afford you many skills and understandings that will serve you well in life. Acting, improvising, making music etc – these skills do not take away from the sciences, they enhance them. We want our students to be whole human beings, not partial human beings and so the education is based on an holistic approach.

How do the two major opposing trends – globalization and localization – translate into education?

There is a famous quote by Comenius, which is cherished and displayed at the entrance to ISP, which says: “We are all citizens of the world. To dislike a man because he was born in another country, because he speaks a different language or because he takes a different view on this subject or that, is a great folly. Let us have but one end in view, welfare of humanity.”

So we celebrate our diversity and take advantage of the fact that we are in the heart of Europe in the Czech Republic and in Prague, surrounded by a rich and vibrant culture. It is very important to be part of that culture. We study both the Velvet Revolution and the Holocaust, we take advantage of the beautiful surrounding countryside as an amazing resource for all subject areas. Children study and meet artists and experts in the city and much more. “The curator project” for the middle school is run in co-operation with the Lobkowicz family and students learn, discover and present their research of artefacts from the Lobkowicz Museum’s rich collections. As you can see, the local and global elements are intertwined. We are very much of the opinion that “local is global and global is local.” As for the Czech educational community, we are always looking for partnering opportunities with Czech educators and Czech schools. Given our strong technological background for example, we annually host a conference for Czech educators addressing the issue of how to best to utilise technology in teaching. Furthermore ISP students have many opportunities to interact with students from local schools as well as their peers from sister schools from around the world.

What are your final words for Czech and Slovak Leaders readers?

I would say that leaders should always value and yes, embrace diversity. The tapestry of cultures and backgrounds we have at ISP is undoubtedly a key strength of our school. I firmly believe that the case for diversity is also the case for business. Diversity allows for fresh and varied perspectives in any organization, and is certainly a crucial ingredient to preparing children for their futures in a diverse and globalized world.

By Linda Štucbartová


Did you know?

ISP in facts and figures: 860 students, 120 teachers and counsellors from over 20 countries, 60 nationalities. Founded in 1948.

The school is for all intents and purposes full, but due to the number of expat families arriving and leaving at various times throughout the year, families interested in ISP are encouraged to contact the school anytime during a school year.

Arnie Bieber was appointed Director of ISP in 2008. Arnie has trodden a diverse path leading to his life in Prague. His background combines a wealth of educational, as well as entrepreneurial experience. Although he much more prefers to talk about the school rather than himself, his story is nonetheless very interesting and inspiring.

Arnie Bieber was born in Brooklyn, New York. His mother is a holocaust survivor, originally from Romania who is still going strong at 92 years old back in New York City. Prior to attaining two MAs in teaching and educational leadership, Arnie successfully ran several businesses and even had a stint as a New York taxi driver to put himself through university. He later gained a Doctorate of Education from Columbia University and began his teaching career in public schools in his native New York. Prior to coming to Prague, he lived and worked in Munich, Caracas and Bucharest. His wife is British and he has two children, who were both born in Caracas, Venezuela. Besides pursuing his passion for education, Arnie continues to follow his life-long interest in making music by regularly playing guitar and singing in the ISP Community Choir.

An important influencer in the international educational scene, Arnie is the Chair-elect of the Board of Trustees of Educational Collaborative of International Schools (ECIS), a non-profit global membership organisation of 400 international schools, that provides professional learning, research and advocacy for its member schools. Arnie previously served as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) and the ECIS Board. He also writes articles and has a blog about twenty first century educational issues called school21c.org, and regularly shares his thoughts with his legion of over 1000 twitter followers.

The most important message. Dr. Jane Goodall at the International School of Prague

Jane Goodall at ISP

Jane Goodall at ISP

“We have harmed your future. If you believe that, you’re absolutely right. And you may have heard it said, ‘We haven’t inherited our planet from our parents, we’ve borrowed it from our children.’ If you’ve heard that, it’s not true. We haven’t borrowed your future, we’ve stolen it. And we’re still stealing it.

Do not believe that it’s too late. I believe there’s a window of time. I believe if we all get together and do our part that we can slow down climate change, that we can begin to restore the environment.” — Jane Goodall speaking to students at the International School of Prague

Four years ago I posted a blog about my first personal encounter with Dr. Jane Goodall during a teacher’s conference in Warsaw, Poland, In The Presence of Greatness.

It was moving to see Dr. Goodall lovingly interact with students from the American School of Warsaw, treating each child with genuine patience, kindness and care. Dr. Goodall expressed her belief, that the environmental damage our generation and previous generations have caused, could still be undone, and that we adults have an obligation to return to the next generation their rightful heritage, a pristine planet. Dr. Jane Goodall’s uplifting message, that each individual can make a difference and that our hopes for the future lie with the children of the world, reminds us of how every teacher can make a profound difference.

Dr Jane Goodall at CEESA Conference in Warsaw Photo by Matt Kollasch

Dr Goodall at CEESA Conference in Warsaw. Photo by Matt Kollasch

Since 1986, Dr. Goodall has travelled nearly 300 days a year on a perpetual world speaking tour, visiting over 30 countries just last year alone. She is a United Nations Messenger of Peace and Dame of the British Empire with innumerable awards and honors to her credit. Dr. Goodall’s work and her unique vision has been an inspiration to thousands of young people around the world. This past December, we had the honor to host Dr. Goodall at our school, the International School of Prague.

At ISP, Dr. Goodall, brought her message of environmental responsibility, the need to care for the animals of the world, as well as for each other, to all ISP community members. She of course spent most of her time with our young people, who represent the future of our planet, urging them to get involved with important causes and with her signature program Roots and Shoots. This year Roots & Shoots is celebrating its 25th anniversary, with more than 150,000 members in over 130 countries, all working on local and global service projects.

Here’s how Dr. Goodall described the Root and Shoots philosophy to our students:

“Young people themselves will decide what they want to do to make the world a better place. Each group will choose three projects, one to help people, one to help animals, and one to help the environment we all share.”

Dr. Goodall at ISP

Dr. Goodall at ISP

Below is the video of her full address to ISP students as well as answering questions from the students:

Ultimately Dr. Goodall’s message is a message of hope. Her message is that if we are not apathetic and are willing to take action, we can make a positive difference in the world.

“When hundreds and thousands and then billions are making ethical choices it does start to make a big difference. The most important message, is every single one of us makes a difference every single day.”

arnie-goodall-2

We look forward to supporting “Dr. Jane’s” mission which aligns with ISP’s mission, “to contribute responsibly to our changing world”, by developing a vibrant Roots and Shoots movement at ISP.

The Nature of Nurture

RSA Journal Issue 1 2016 Cover

I was recently invited to write an article for the RSA Journal on the topic of school change, innovation and creativity. The resulting article, The Nature of Nurture (RSA Journal, Issue 1, 2016) talks about the importance of bringing all stakeholders; teachers, students, parents and the broader community, into the school change process as well as present some of the concrete steps ISP is taking to move the school closer to its mission of Inspiring, Engaging and Empowering Learners for Life. 

“A key step towards meaningful school transformation is a concerted effort to educate, not only teachers, but also parents and students, about why creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and life-worthy learning must be an integral part of a child’s education. Beyond enlightening all stakeholders about why change is necessary, schools must find ways for interested individuals to try things out without, in the process, draining human and financial resources. “

To read the entire article, click here: The Nature of Nurture

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)  is a dynamic world-wide organization with a network of 27,000 fellows. Many have had their first contact with the RSA through their ubiquitous “RSA Animate,” series, “conceived as an innovative, accessible and unique way of illustrating and sharing world-changing ideas.

Established in 1754, the RSA’s mission is “to enrich society through ideas and action.”

We serve this mission by acting as a global hub, by enabling millions of people to access the most creative ideas, by nurturing networks of innovators, and through researching, testing and sharing practical interventions.

Click below to learn more about RSA’s history and the influential role it plays on bringing about innovative change.

 

 

“The Shadow Knows”… a day in the life of a student

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 11.24.13

As Director of the International School of Prague (ISP), I like to believe that I work hard every day, but yesterday I gained a new perspective on hard work, having “shadowed” Grace, a grade 9 student at ISP, for a day.

While I often visit classrooms and observe kids learning and teachers teaching, spending a full day shadowing one student, from class to class, as well as lunch, is a very different experience and one I highly recommend, especially to other school decision makers.

I decided to shadow Grace as part of an initiative called Shadow a Student Challenge sponsored by SchoolRetool. Here’s how they describe what shadowing is: “Just like it sounds, shadowing a student is the process of following a student to gain empathy and insight into their experience. ” And that’s just what the day of shadowing gave me, some unique insights into the life of one of our students, as well as some real empathy for their experience.

Our day started at 8 am for an 80 minute block of Mathematics. The focus of this class was on factoring and I was impressed with the focused yet caring tone set by their teacher, Mr. Rops, and how physically active the class was. For the first 20 minutes, enthusiastic students worked on a variety of warm-ups and problems, standing throughout the room and writing on the various white walls, desks and even windows. There was a lot of cross discussion and kids checking and helping each other out throughout the class.

Maths in action!

Maths in action

Grace and friends problem solving

Grace and friends problem solving

After Math, things really got physical, as I participated in a PE class in the school fitness center. While I didn’t come dressed or prepared for a work-out, I decided to join in at the invitation of PE teacher, Ms. Shaw. I think I got more than I bargained for! After some strenuous warm-ups, the students were given the task of creating their own workout regimen based on exercises they have been using over the past few weeks. I buddied up with another student,  Alisa, who really took us through our paces with a regimen of plank walks, crunches, side squats, bicep curls and something I think was called the Bulgarian squat! Suffice it to say, I learned a lot through the pain, but felt kind of virtuous, if exhausted by the end of class. Again I was struck by hands on learning taking place and the willingness of our students to help each other throughout our time together.

PE Fitness class

PE Fitness class

Feeling tired and virtuous with Ms. Shaw

After fitness workout with Ms. Shaw’s PE class

After PE it was off to lunch with Grace and her friends. This was a chance to unwind, chat and laugh while enjoying some great food. I appreciated how Grace and her peers included me in the lunchtime conversation and banter.

After lunch and some welcome down time, it was back to it with social studies. This is a class in which lots of different things were happening at the same time. Students were working on their presentations, others went off to prepare for a theater production while others were involved in leading an activity with grade 3 students. Grace worked on her presentation whose topic focused on the impact of  oil on WWII.  During the class, students conferred with each other and social studies teacher, Ms. Fleming, about their individual presentations.

Grace working on her presentation

Grace working on her presentation in Social Studies

The final class of the day was grade 9 science with Mr. Morrison. We started off with an active warm-up, followed by a short lab experiment in which we explored the “specific heat capacity” of various metals. “The specific heat is the amount of heat per unit mass required to raise the temperature by one degree Celsius.” By placing a metal in boiling water, measuring the temperature with a probe and then placing the hot metal in room temperature water and recording the water temperature increase we used the data to apply the appropriate formula and compare our results for various metals.

Understanding heat capacity

Understanding heat capacity

As you can imagine, my retelling of my day of shadowing and the classes I attended only skim the surface, but I truly did come away from the experience with a deeper appreciation of what a school day is like for a grade 9 student. The life of a high school student is chock full every day and the range of learning activities required from students as they move from class to class is considerable. It’s also important to bear in mind, that while the school day schedule goes from 8 am to 3 pm, most students have after school activities and homework to contend with before their day is truly over.

What impressed me the most about our school was the overall welcoming and nurturing learning environment, how supportive our students are of each other and the way our teachers are able to develop an ethos, where students feel highly supported and safe to take risks, can work independently or collaboratively and truly have the opportunity to learn by doing.

I want to thank Grace for her willingness to share her day of learning with me, and I certainly plan on making shadowing a regular feature of my work in the future. I may have ended the school day a bit sore, but I learned a lot, and it was fun too!

Thanks Grace!

Thanks Grace!

Knowledge isn’t Power

“Knowledge isn’t power. Knowledge is something you Google” – Danny Gregory

In order to include parents in crucial conversations about how schools are changing to meet the needs of today’s student, the International School of Prague engages parents in a regular series of thought-provoking workshops called, The Edge in Education. The Edge is an opportunity to discuss current and future trends in education and to engage parents in dialogue  about how to best support their children. Previous topics addressed in Edge workshops include:

Creative thinking with Danny Gregory

Artist, author, creative director, blogger, teacher and speaker, Danny Gregory, was our guest speaker for the latest edition of Edge in Education series.

Danny also spent a week at ISP as an “artist in residence”, working with students and teachers alike, helping them  sharpen their creativity skills and teaching them how to better understand the world around them through the lens of keen observation and sketching.

Danny at ISP

Danny Gregory at ISP

As an introduction to the topic of creativity before Danny’s presentation to parents, two quotes were highlighted:

“The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”                                                     Dan Pink

Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy, and I actually think people understand that creativity is important – they just don’t understand what it is.”                   Sir Ken Robinson

Through the lens of his own fascinating and, at times, tragic personal journey, Danny Gregory eloquently presented his strong point of view about how creativity is not a frill, but an essential part of our lives. Through it all Danny revealed to us the power of creativity; how it enabled him to bring greater clarity to his own life and reconnect to the world around him.

Danny’s message is that everyone can make art; that we can all be artists with “a small ‘a’.” Like cooking, art should not be reserved only for those with a professional skill.

“Imagine if we thought that to be able to cook you have to have a four-star restaurant, to be able to cook you have to go to a culinary institute and spend years as an apprentice working for a master chef and eventually you would be able to cook and open a restaurant. We don’t though; we think of cooking as I can make a grilled cheese sandwich, I can make an omelette, I can make a burger. Why can’t we think of art… being the equivalent of heating up a can of soup?”

So Danny challenges us to think of art as  an essentially innate human trait that we all have and can bring into our lives. It’s a skill like driving or cooking which we learn and do regularly until it becomes second nature. But more than that, as Danny points out, creativity is really an essential twenty first century skill.

“We think it’s really nice to have art. It’s so great when we have art in schools or we have music in school. That’s so nice because then we’re cultured. We don’t want our kids growing up and not being cultured and just thinking about work, but the fact is creative skills, and it’s fantastic that it’s a key part of your mission here, because creative skills are what you need to proceed in life.”
If you’d like to learn more about Danny Gregory’s compelling story and artistic journey, you can view the full Edge in Education video here:

The Fourth “I”

ISP Graduation, Palac Zofin, Prague

ISP Graduation, Palac Zofin, Prague

Each year, at graduation time we ask ourselves, “How well have we prepared our students for the future?” Given the unprecedented rate of change in the world, this is a question with no easy answer. My graduation address to the class of 2015, at the stunning Palac Zofin in Prague, was an attempt to perhaps point them in the right direction:

Every parent wants their child to be happy and successful, or as we say at ISP to “lead healthy, fulfilling and purposeful lives.” Each year when graduation time comes around, we consider how well we’ve been able to prepare our children and our students for the future. These days we may also wonder, “What does it take to live a successful life in the twenty-first century?”

10 years ago, two books which became international bestsellers, attempted to articulate how the world had changed, as well as identify the skills necessary to navigate today’s new world. In The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Thomas Friedman argued that the twenty-first century is more than an evolved twentieth century, but is a world transformed.

 medieval depiction of the Ecumene (1482, Johannes Schnitzer, engraver)

A medieval depiction of the Ecumene (1482, Johannes Schnitzer, engraver)

Friedman begins his book with a sense of discovery:

Columbus reported to his king and queen that the world was round, and he went down in history as the man who first made this discovery. I returned home and shared my discovery only with my wife, and only in a whisper. “Honey,” I confided, “I think the world is flat.”

Friedman goes on to explain:

“It is now possible for more people than ever to collaborate and compete in real time with more other people on more different kinds of work from more different corners of the planet and on a more equal footing, than at any previous time in the history of the world.”

In other words, how we interact and how we work has turned each of us into global neighbors and has irrevocably altered how we communicate and how we relate to one another.

Roughly at the same time that The World is Flat was published, Dan Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, set out to articulate the new 21st Century skills that are required to function in the flat world.

Here’s how Pink put it:

“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”

The Human Body and Health 1908

The Human Body and Health 1908

Pink challenged us to question whether the traditional paths to success are still viable. He challenged us to question whether today’s graduates can really map out and predetermine their future paths.

What does this mean to you, our graduates? You have a better grasp of the world you are entering than any generation before you. You are tech savvy and well-connected to the digital world and to each other. You are interconnected in ways we could only dream of just a short decade ago, when the World is Flat was written. But the world requires more than technologists and well-connected digital citizens, and it also requires more than the 3Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic, that were considered crucial when my generation went to school.

France 1901

School of the Future, France 1901

To be clear, I still believe that the traditional literacies are important. But I would argue, that in today’s world where change is the new normal, what you might call the 3I’s, Imagination, Innovation and Initiative, is imperative.

  1. Imagination, to foresee and dream about what might be and to think creatively
  2. Innovation, to prototype and take risks with new ideas
  3. Initiative,taking an entrepreneurial approach to one’s endeavors.

Now more than ever, the new literacies such as the 3I’s can open new pathways to not only how we work but even how we live our lives. Over 50 years ago futurist Alvin Toffler foresaw the new literacies when he said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

 Gary Waters/Getty

Gary Waters/Getty

But dear graduates, there is a critical 4th “I” which I believes carries even greater weight, and that is Integrity, or as the dictionary defines it, “the adherence to moral and ethical principles.” Of course maintaining a moral compass is not a new concept, in fact it is as old as humanity. But while change is everywhere, a consistent set of values and principles, will not only keep you afloat, but like a ship’s rudder will help guide you and truly serve you well in good times and in bad.

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Graduates, in the rush and excitement to get on with your lives and succeed, don’t lose sight of your values. Know what they are and hold them dear like a precious jewel, especially when you are challenged with the inevitable moral dilemmas that you will face in the future. This I believe is the main ingredient of a healthy, fulfilling and purposeful life.