In an effort to develop a new strategic plan for IC, representatives from the board of trustees, school administration, faculty, staff, parents, and students met at the Movenpick Hotel conference room on April 8 for a two-day intensive brainstorming retreat.
Heading the retreat was Teresa Arpin, President of Transformation Systems, specializing in working with educational organizations across the globe. It was her job to facilitate a strategic planning process and steer participants in tackling a new school vision, which may very possibly see today’s preschoolers entering a task force starkly different from ours today.
“Today, it’s more important than ever to have a strategic plan,” said Arpin. “Many schools in the world right now are having the same conversation. What it means to be an educated person today is very different from what it will mean 10,15, 20 years from now – it is changing because of the nature of our world.”
The retreat followed a series of Virtual Cafes sessions where IC community members exchanged ideas and thoughts about their perceived values, needed changes, and opportunities for IC.
Many questions were tackled, including: What is the future like? What are the effects of Covid? How do we help our students? Who do we want them to be in 20 years? Should we be shifting away from traditional academics? Can we disassociate skills from knowledge, or do we embed them? What are the future standards of success? What is the best way for IC to move forward?
“The country is going through very difficult times, and the school inevitably is going to be impacted, so we need to be vigilant,” said Board Member Amal Ghandour. “We need to be very proactive in anticipating issues that we will face and identify opportunities to be able to cross this difficult period and be very well prepared over the long term in terms of a commitment to excellence.”
IC students must be prepared to enter a workforce that perhaps no longer places a high value on pure academics. With information available at the tips of a finger, artificial intelligence possibly dominating the workplace, and a potential takeover of brain-computer interfaces, the future is looking increasingly different.
The pandemic may have just ended the typical 9-to-5 jobs and quickened the advancement of a global, tech-infused world. The transformation is not going unnoticed in the education arena as leading schools across the world have started to reevaluate how they educate their learners. Many schools have already altered their curriculums to focus on project-based work to foster analytical thinking, problem-solving, and other cognitive practices.
“It’s a different world,” said Board Member Imad Taher. “And we have to adapt to the new world. This new world needs new skills, and we have to prepare our students. We had a vision before, but this vision keeps changing and evolving, and the way we do things also changes.”
A 2013 study in the US showed that students participating in social-emotional learning programs demonstrated more enhanced social-emotional skills, positive social behavior, and lower levels of emotional distress and conduct problems. In other words, people with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially - attributes destined to become the top employability skills.
That is not to say that academics are to be relegated to the back burner. Rather, they must be “interwoven,” said IC Vice President Paula Mufarrij. “Change can only come if you are knowledgeable. Academics and social-emotional skills go together.”
Moreover, Board Member Rabih Shibli insisted, “We need to see how high the IC community wants to push the boundaries. It is very well known that our graduates are academically excelling, but once we incorporate civic engagement, this is where you empower them and give them agency when it comes to their interpersonal skills, their commitment to their civic and social commitment.”
In September, teams of IC members will meet to work on operational initiatives curriculums. Most importantly, they will identify measurable quantitative and qualitative learning indicators.
“That is why it is good to have a new strategic plan for the school every few years,” said IC President Joel Peinado. “It makes you look at your school critically and with fresh eyes to see what is good, what you want to keep and improve, and what new system or practice from outside the school you may want to bring in.”
Taking part in the retreat was Board Member Safwan Masri. As a scholar on education, the retreat for him was especially significant.
“The reason that we wanted to engage everybody is because we feel you can’t really strategize for the future without getting a pulse of things on the ground,” he said. “Regardless of what we come out with in terms of a strategy, just this in-depth sitting around the table with the people I serve by being a board member is invaluable.”