Preparing for the global economy

International education helps students develop the vital skills needed to thrive in the modern workplace, says Kristi Sedlacek

Last year the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) revealed that it had received over 592,000 university applications for the 2015/16 academic year, a two percent increase on 2014/15. The demand for places in higher education, while very encouraging to see, is an indicator of the challenging environment graduates will face when applying for jobs after university. Graduates need to be able to stand out from the large number of applications being submitted for each position and an international education can give that vital competitive edge.

A number of international qualifications are offered at ACS Egham, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) primary years, middle years, diploma and careers-related programmes. At the heart of all the IB programmes is an ethos of international-mindedness and global citizenship, which is introduced in the primary years programme (PYP) and developed across subsequent stages.

From the age of three to 11, PYP students are taught the basic principles of social and cultural awareness alongside a strong academic programme. They are actively encouraged to be inquisitive and explore who they are and how the world works. This foundation for learning allows children to develop an awareness of their individual abilities and how their skills can be applied beyond the classroom when working with others.

I firmly believe that an international education really helps students prepare for life beyond the classroom – Kristi Sedlacek

Questioning, team work and communication skills established by PYP are used for a final-year group project exhibition. Working on a subject of their choice, students produce a presentation for classmates, staff and family members. This helps develop self-awareness through public speaking and active participation in discussions generated by their projects – key skills needed to thrive and progress in the workplace.

In middle school (ages 11-16), students begin the middle years programme (MYP) where they integrate the core elements of the IB learner profile: inquiry, knowledge, thinking, communication, principles, open-minded, caring, risk-taking, balance and reflection – all values supported and taught throughout the eight-subject curriculum. By adopting these traits, they develop a wider understanding of the world around them and how they can contribute as global citizens.

Giving students the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning is an important part of the MYP, and each year grade-nine students at ACS Egham are given the opportunity to take part in work experience week when they join businesses to learn more about the workplace. Last year students on work experience placements visited both national and local businesses, including Hilton Hotels, Cisco Systems, Top Print and Age Concern. The experience provides valuable lessons on how to engage in the workplace and use organisational and communication skills to work with others in a professional setting.

The IB careers-related programme is also available to those who want to study a curriculum directly tailored to workplace skills. The programme has a three-part framework that allows students to learn about career-related studies, study a minimum of two IB diploma courses and see how their diploma courses directly correspond to the workplace.

ACS Egham also offers students the chance to develop their abilities outside the classroom through extra-curricular activities. They can take part in a range of local and international ventures, such as Project Nepal, which includes travel to impoverished areas where they help build much-needed structures for the community. Providing opportunities to become part of the local and global community means that students can develop international-mindedness, and an awareness of how their actions can affect others immediately – highly valued attributes in the global workplace.

A recent ACS International Schools University Admissions Officers Survey cited the IB as highly effective in developing essential workplace skills, with 57 percent of officers rating the IBDP as developing these well or extremely well, and I firmly believe that an international education really helps students prepare for life beyond the classroom.

Kristi Sedlacek is IB career-related program, work experience and careers coordinator at ACS Egham International School W: www.acs-schools.com/acs-egham