“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” — Edith Ann
THE International School Dhaka was established in 1999 with the sole motive of providing an all-round education for its students. The school seeks to provide a high-quality English-medium education for both national and expatriate students. It provides ‘international’ education in the true sense of the word, which enables its students to become true global citizens after they graduate from the school. We from Star Campus decided to visit the school and closely observe its activities and learn a lot more about it. The tour of the campus was truly a rewarding experience.
A 30 minutes drive from the busy downtown Dhaka took us to the picturesque campus of International School Dhaka (ISD) situated in Bashundhara Residential Area in Baridhara. A warm welcome by Syed M Babar (Business Manager) and Farhana Chowdhury of the Public Relations Office of ISD was followed by a visit to the office of Stephen Murray, the CEO of ISD. After a tête-à-tête interview with the friendly CEO, he led us to a guided tour of the school campus, explaining the different functionalities of each block.
The following are the excerpts from the interview:
Star Campus (SC): What makes ISD different from the other schools?
Stephen Murray (SM): The school was originally set up to make a difference and to help drive up standards. There are several ways in which this can be answered.
We can say that we are great at sharing. We work with public schools and other international schools in Dhaka in various programmes and with a great number of charity organizations. The school is a member of DISA (Dhaka International Schools Association). We support different initiatives in Dhaka including Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity and other such projects.
People tend to think that we are an isolated ‘island’ but we do try to reach out to many people around us. Let me give you some headlines about the school to help you understand the way we go.
ISD is an Elite School, not an ‘elitist’ one and let’s differentiate between these words. We try very much to go according to the International Curriculum in the truest sense of the word. The curriculum is not dominated by the American or British or Australian or any national school curriculum but is truly an international one. We are the only school in Bangladesh to offer the International Baccalaureate.
The school has a dynamic curriculum and it changes over time and is constantly being reviewed. This leads the students to be disciplined and makes them ready for the world when they graduate from this school. Whether they live here in Dhaka or Chittagong or go outside the country, they are well prepared to face the challenges of the world. The other thing about the International Baccalaureate is that it is flexible. There are thousands of schools around the world that offer IB. For our transit population, people who are expatriates, working in NGOs and multinational companies, diplomatic missions and so on, and the Bangladeshi community who go abroad for various reasons, the children of these people can adjust well when they move to other countries.
SC: How many countries in the world have the IB Curriculum?
SM: The IB system of education exists in over 127 countries around the world and the country with the largest number of schools offering the International Baccalaureate is United States!
Our first batch of graduates came out in May last year and one of them got admitted in the University College London with a scholarship. The students from Bangladesh have showed above average performance in the IB exams.
Our subjects include Mathematics, the Sciences, the Arts and other important courses. The students not only have to learn the theory, they also have to learn how to question themselves, the reason how each theory came to be and so on so that they can develop an inquisitive mind, rather than accepting what their teachers are teaching them passively.
Our school awards two diplomas at the end of Grade 12. One is the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the second one is the ISD School Diploma. Our students sit for six subjects to earn this diploma.
SC: Are the students involved with Community Service Activities?
SM: We have a programme called the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) where all students are required to do several hundred hours of community service over a period of two years. And based on their experiences while doing the community service activities, they have to write a 4000 word essay at the end of their term.
Activities range from large non-governmental organisations to small local set-ups. Present activities are focused on fund-raising and currently, the school supports UTSHO (a hostel and school for street children in Dhaka), Rishilpi (helping to re-build 13 village schools which were destroyed by cyclone) and Pirgachha Mission (contributing a monthly sum towards paying for milk and medicine for newborn babies).
SC: Tell us about the management and accreditation of the school.
SM: ISD is not managed locally, but by the Council of International Schools. The owners have requested the Council of International Schools to take care of its management directly.
The school is accredited by The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Council of International Schools. These accreditations are constantly monitored hence a high standard of education must be maintained.
SC: How are the teachers selected?
SM: We believe in empowering the students by teaching them how to do research and encourage their thinking process. We look for teachers who have the right approach to teaching. We currently have 50 expatriate teachers and 5 local teachers and there are Teaching Assistants for all the course teachers.
We do not teach the students in the traditional method, rather we empower them to learn. The students get to learn how to research for themselves and how to do critical thinking on their own.
SC: How much do the students get to learn about Bangladesh and its cultures and values?
SM: Although we have an International Approach to our teaching, we also uphold local cultures and values. We celebrate the Pahela Boishakh, Independence Day and other such programmes on the school premises.
Since 65% students of the school are Bangladeshi we have a Bangla course in our Middle Years Program(MYP).
We arrange regular workshops for parents and from the coming August we will be launching an Online Monitoring System for the parents where they can keep track of their children’s performance from anywhere in the world.
SC: What other features make the school special?
SM: We have an excellent support staff and I believe that the support staff is the engine of a school. ISD is a secular school and we do not offer any religious courses.
In addition to that we have an automated library, gymnasium, heated swimming pool, cafeteria, playing field, tennis and basketball courts, landscaped gardens and play areas inside the campus.
SC: Thank you sir for your cooperation.
We left ISD much informed than before. The tour helped us gain an insight into the academic and operational aspects of the school.
The concept of International Baccalaureate Diploma is a relatively new one in Bangladesh but it is fast gaining more and more acceptance at home and abroad. The International Baccalaureate Diploma holders have gained admission to some of the most prestigious and selective universities throughout the world and ISD is playing its part here in Bangladesh.