3D rendering of a compass with a excellence icon

Models of Excellence

Some people travel the world to bask in the sun on warm beaches, others to see historical monuments or cultural centers. Others travel to new places just for special events. I have relatives that travel in order to attend a game at every major league baseball stadium. I love to travel. One of the things that I really enjoy is when I get an opportunity to visit other schools. I learn so much each time I make the visit. Schools are microcosms of the communities they serve. Although they each have their niche within the local community, they still reflect the societal culture in which they exist. When observing the school, you can see the struggles of the past and the tensions of the present but also a glimpse of hope for the future. In the 21st century, the desire of families and governments everywhere, poor as well as rich, is for children to get a good education and become positive citizenry. Schools come in all shapes and sizes. They come with nuances of mission and vision.  In many parts of the world, especially in rural Africa and South Asia, school buildings are very basic— simple buildings and roofs with mud or concrete floors and battered secondhand desks, if there are desks at all. At the other extreme, you’ll find schools that feature gleaming new buildings and look more like colleges, full of the latest technology, they are modern showpieces of pride and ambition. Inside the world’s school buildings, there is also enormous variety in the quality and style of education provided.


Around the United States and world, I have seen unimaginative rote learning where children sit in rows, copying from the blackboard or reciting from old books published for their grandparents. But I have also seen innovative programs where dedicated educators or philanthropists are introducing problem solving and project-based learning, or building science labs in elementary schools located in drug-infested and poverty stricken neighborhoods. I have seen heroic individuals who are making a difference in children’s lives everywhere. The challenge today is how do we cultivate effective classrooms and an effective school. How do we create an effective and high-quality education for the children in our charge and impact the world, one child at a time.


The global knowledge economy is a game changer. All over the world— from Australia to Cambodia, India to Finland, South Africa to Mexico— countries have been improving the education system as a pathway to participation in that economy. Our students compete against these students in the ever increasing global market. In the past, education systems, including Christian schools, tended to be inward looking. They were building systems and curriculum based on the teachers and what is most expedient for the schools. Schools and education systems considered themselves to be unique and thought that differences in culture and operating systems made policies and practices developed elsewhere irrelevant. But today, administrators and educators everywhere are looking for innovations and ideas for how to improve their systems from wherever they can find them. We recognize that no single nation has all the answers to the educational challenges produced by this new knowledge and innovation economy, and a new global marketplace of educational ideas is therefore developing. Many high-performing nations have, in fact, been systematically searching the world for improvement ideas for a long time. The United States has been an important source of these ideas because of its lead in world affairs and economic clout.


Perhaps because of the U.S. position as the world leader on education in the mid– 20th century, American K– 12 educators have not been very active participants in these international bench marking activities until recently. As a nation, we are feeling the economic pressures of rising powers of China, India, Brazil, and Europe. Now that it is crystal clear that other systems have moved ahead of the United States in important respects, there is growing interest in understanding more about how school systems in other parts of the world have raised their achievement.


If we are to pursue excellence, then we as a Christian school need to look outward. We need to see what is working around the world. How does this happen? Not by chance, that is for sure. The Christian school needs to connect with the booming Christian school movement in Africa, Asia, and South America. What are our Christian brothers and sisters doing in education? What are our secular colleagues doing for the betterment of teaching and learning? This discussion of data requires us, teachers and parents, to look out past the borders of campus to the local community, state, nation and beyond. What research out there can help us do a better job with our modern learners? I look forward to discussing excellence found in the schools around the world and here at home.


Stewart, Vivien. World-Class Education : Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, ASCD, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Head of School Blog


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