Education for our time

What values should I feel comfortable with should my child be offered a place?

Cedar House is deeply committed to journeying with a child, to educating the wholeness of a child and to assisting a young person to feel safe, confident and comfortable in the context of what we believe the 21st century will increasingly require.

Our academic programme is strong and our staffing decisions, around this programme, are rigorous in an attempt to ensure alignment around this vision. Academically, a Cedar House student will be stretched and so a degree of academic aspiration is essential. This is a mature environment that suits a self-reliant and independent learner best; families should take this into account when considering our School.

 

The Independent Examinations Board

We write Independent Examinations Board (IEB) examinations because we feel obligated to offer our students the highest possible level of academic experience as possible. We also need to be true to our students’ tertiary ambitions. An IEB education offers young people a stronger picture of what will be experienced on a tertiary level; at the University of Cape Town, for example, 50% of students with a state matric complete a 3 year degree in 3 years; with IEB students, the figure is 98%. IEB requirements are more demanding but we live in a demanding world and we believe that IEB results are an accurate predictor of tertiary capacity and tertiary success.

For highly capable students, we offer strong after School courses in Advanced Programme Mathematics and Advanced Programme English.

IEB assessment instruments are based on 3 higher order areas of thinking:

1. CREATING (designing, generating new ideas or new ways of doing things, producing)

2. EVALUATING (judging, justifying a decision, hypothesizing, finding, reconstructing)

3. ANALYSING (comparing, breaking information into parts to explore relationships)

Students are taught to engage on an extended abstract level with a high degree of originality. In Grade 12, all students work for example, on a subject-based research report that explores a “big question”. Being a part of the IEB allows us to bring depth to the process of learning.

There is more of a focus on open-ended and “own voice” examination questions; these also require substance and academic substantiation. Closed questions (more of a feature of examinations in the state system where sheer numbers necessitate the creation of assessment instruments that are easier to mark) require a limited number of correct responses or a single answer. IEB exams privilege divergent thinking, that allows a student to use her own unique ideas to reach a conclusion or formulate an individual response.

 

A ‘good’ education

A good education provides young people with a discourse and a framework with which to understand and speak back to the world. 30% of current UCT students felt School was of no use to them; we are obliged to address this. As Professor Crain Soudien (University of Cape Town) said, children’s brains are furnaces and Schools need to start respecting this. Society has problems that need to be solved and this imperative will not succeed without good Schools.

Achieving distinctions in Grade 12 is one thing; more importantly, we believe, is for Schools to help children to think more strongly and more broadly. The South African education system is simply not rising to the occasion (the latest Global Competitiveness Report released by the World Economic Forum ranked South Africa last out of 148 countries in Science and maths education); Cedar House is challenging this and the IEB cohort of South African learners is well above this ranking. Soudien also speaks about how he regularly encounters students at UCT who achieved many A’s in Matric but do not know anything; Cedar House students know and have thought about a great deal. The responsibility of a good School is to stimulate and catalyse the beauty of thought. We are committed to switching on each child’s intrinsic ability. We are committed to raising the standard of young peoples’ conversations by engaging with the fullness of their individual capacities.

School = an opportunity to help a child come to a full and healthy sense of her or his whole self and to assist in the cultivation of a largeness of spirit.

 

South Africa, in the 21st century (our students’ time and space…)

One can think about living in South Africa as being a gift that bequeaths a particular kind of possibility OR as a disaster. We focus on the former. As South Africans, we are being called upon to be human beings in ways that few sites in the world call on people to be human beings. This is a gift not an affliction. An old fashioned, simply understandable approach to education just does not match up to the complexity of our time and space. All of this, of course, is not an exact science and will, at times, appear to be messy.

Education is more than its utilitarian value. There can be tension between striving for A’s and instilling a largeness of spirit/reflection on being a citizen. A school system that is only exams-focused, for example, is an indictment of true learning. We try to assess the concept and broad understanding as opposed to drill, practice and mastering a recipe.

In this way we are trying to be true to 21st century cognitive demands, which require young people to be able to critically and consciously explore. We assess in a range of ways beyond conventional exams (some of our subjects, for example, have a 25% oral component).

Schools must produce people who are educable, who have a relationship with learning, unlearning and relearning. The broader canvas of what we are doing must be linked to the time ad space in which young people find themselves and so nation-building, social change and the further consolidation of a democratic order must be at the base of our work. We are all called upon to create amore just, more equitable and more humane future. Advancing the humanity of others is a key human imperative. In a profoundly unequal society, we have obligations.

 

Parents

Cedar House will feel different to what traditional systems offer and it will feel different to the schooling our parents experienced; education, we believe, should not remain static but should rather be evolving all the time.

University of London research (published in the New Statesman, May 2014) argues that there are 3 predictors of achievement:

• Conscientiousness

• A hungry mind

• Intelligence

We agree and are committed to growing these 3 capacities.