Just over 50 years ago the US politician Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech that included this now familiar allusion, “There is a Chinese curse which says may he live in interesting times”. He went on to elaborate his point: “Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind”.
The curse he is referring to is almost certainly an apocryphal one, but the thinking behind it is every bit as relevant today as it was in the 1960s. The political climate is turbulent and unpredictable, the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest is wider than it has ever been, rapid technological development is bringing about drastic changes in the way we lead our lives, and the effects of global warming mean that our planet is under threat as never before. Interesting times, indeed.
What does this mean for those of us who work in the sphere of education?
Tomorrow’s world depends on the young people of today and their ability to meet the challenges of a future that’s equally inspiring and unsettling. We find ourselves at the point of a daunting coming together of social and geographical upheaval and unprecedented technological revolution, and we need to ensure that the next generation is adequately prepared to take us forward.
At the British School in Tokyo (BST), we have no doubt that our young people—our future—have the energy, resilience and intellectual capacity to reimagine the way our world works. We are determined to give them the capabilities and connections that will empower them to make the future and their place in it all it should be.
This year, for the first time in its history, BST is home to well over 1,000 students. There are many good reasons to explain the remarkable surge in student enrolment at BST in recent years, but foremost among them is the widespread recognition that this is a school where young people of all abilities and from the most diverse backgrounds can find their niche and fulfil their potential.
Since 2012, we have seen the number of 15–18 year-old students on our IGCSE and A Level courses more than double to almost 250, examination results have improved to the point where they match the gold standard set by the UK independent sector and our graduates are winning places at some of the most highly-regarded and prestigious universities.
Young people today see themselves as global citizens, and, while many of our graduates go on to the next stage of their education in the UK, there certainly seems to be a steady increase in the number who seek to broaden their horizons still further by choosing to study in other parts of the world. This international mindset exemplifies the tolerant, outward-looking nature of the sort of student we aim to nurture here: caring, considerate and capable of standing in the shoes of others.
More than a school
BST is so much more than an academic institution. All examinations are important, and many parents are impressed by the rigour and structured progression of our particular brand of British education from the age of three through to 18, but we all recognise that education is not simply about passing exams. Sport, music and drama are woven into the fabric of school life, and we see both community service and adventurous activity as real strengths.
Creativity is always highly valued, and from their early years in our Nursery and Reception classes children are given countless opportunities to develop the independence and resilience that will enable them to take the next step in their lives—wherever it might take them—with confidence and a smile.