With no campus or brick-and-mortar facility to speak of, THINK Global School(TGS) is anything but traditional. The approach it takes blends world-schooling with the peer and faculty network of traditional schools. Its high school students study in three different countries each year — one for each term — as they work toward an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. Instruction is almost entirely in English, though the school offers foreign language classes in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. In addition, students have to learn the basics of languages native to the places in which they’re living for the semester. This year, students will travel to Sweden, Bosnia, and Italy. Last year, they experienced educational opportunities ranging from visiting the Acropolis Museum in Athens to taking biology lessons in the Costa Rican rainforest.
As students travel, they learn in all kinds of environments, including city streets, tribal villages, and science labs around the world. Learning is further facilitated by a heavy investment in technology, with each student receiving a MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone to complete classwork. These resources are enhanced by a Guest Speaker series, which has put students in touch with influential leaders like Prince Reza Pahlavi of Iran, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, and World Wildlife Foundation president Yolanda Kakabadse.
Community service is another fundamental component of the TGS philosophy. In each country, students participate in advocacy and charity projects that connect them to the community in which they are living. In the past, these have included creating a film documentary of the Japanese earthquake-relief efforts and constructing schools in India. In addition to fostering relationships with people around the world, TGS students build close relationships with one another through their travels, as well as with their teachers and advisors. Students are each assigned a personal advisor who works with them to identify passions, arrange academic assistance, and provide emotional support.
What are the outcomes of THINK Global School’s innovation?
This program takes global learning to a whole new level: Students are face-to-face with residents of various countries, learning about new cultures and acquiring skills constantly. Though local flavor seeps into each semester of study, graduates receive high-quality, comprehensive college prep, and many have gone on to study at elite colleges all over the world, including Georgetown and Harvard in the United States, King’s College in the U.K., and the American University of Paris in France.
On an episode of the school’s podcast, alumni discussed what life is like six months after finishing TGS. They described the necessity of becoming accustomed to a less nomadic academic experience, yet still having an easy and exciting transition to life at their respective universities and appreciating the incredible opportunities afforded to them by TGS.
How is THINK Global School’s innovation relevant to the larger ed space?
Schools are increasingly talking the talk about global education, but no one seems to be walking the walk quite as much as TGS. Even the most exceptional study abroad programs at the college level do not offer this breadth and depth of international experience.
Perhaps the relevance of the THINK Global model to the larger education world is its rejection of what we think of as school — that is, its way of showing us how limited our conception of education is. Insisting on constant movement, stimulation, and inspiration, its programming flaunts how exciting this approach is. Most schools successfully bring lessons to life by incorporating an experience, such as a field trip or project, into an educational unit; but TGS weaves unending education into three years' worth of enriching encounters that teach students not only to embrace and interact with other cultures, but also to strive to improve any community they join. (reposted https://www.noodle.com/articles/innovative-schools-2015#think)