Singapore National Day 2017

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Cognita pioneers quality education in Singapore and beyond

Cognita schools are right at the forefront of equipping today’s children for the changes that have yet to come

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 9:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 2:16pm

Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports

At least three out of 10 jobs will be obsolete within the next 20 years. More will follow suit as technologies such as automation and robotics increasingly find their way from hi-tech laboratories and factory floors to operating tables, homes and everyday lives. Key to staying relevant in the perpetually evolving market is a matching desire to learn limitlessly. For Cognita schools worldwide, this means transcending borders – from the four walls of the classroom to all corners of the world.

“In the future, robots will be doing many of the jobs that our parents – and even we – are doing today. Children have to be careful not to narrow their choices too much, for example, being ‘a doctor’ because traditional doctors may be computerised sooner than we think,” says Michael Drake, CEO of Cognita Asia. “Children need to be inquisitive, adaptable, curious and resilient and if they are, they will have a better chance of succeeding in life – no matter what the world becomes.”

With a global group of 68 schools across Asia, Europe and Latin America, Cognita knows that borders themselves are evolving, blurring and even disappearing – and Cognita schools are right at the forefront of equipping today’s children for the changes that have yet to come.

“We work hard at aligning expectations with parents because the school life they experienced themselves was very different from what children experience today,” Drake says. “We want to be able to look every parent in the eye and tell them we will do everything to prepare their child to be successful in the world, which means providing a great academic education, building character and instilling in them a global perspective.”

Cognita’s Early Learning Village in Singapore

To that end, Cognita achieves a significant milestone this month with the opening of a new purpose-built Early Learning campus in Singapore called The Early Learning Village. Conceptualised and developed for students aged 18 months to six years, the new campus is a joint project conceived by Cognita’s Australian International School (AIS) and Stamford American International School (SAIS).

“In this age where education is striving to keep up and adapt with all the changes in the world, the way children learn can be just as important as what they learn,” Drake says. “This is the inspiration behind the Early Learning Village. We have been inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which revolves around the students and their experiential learning through exploration and discovery.”

Bright open spaces combined with the warmth of the natural wood theme help stimulate sensory learning.

In addition to the distinct academic curricula offered by the two schools, the Village will allow children to choose activities ranging from ballet to soccer, language-learning and other co-curricular activities.

The Village houses one-of-a-kind multifunctional spaces, thoughtfully designed for young children including an early-years swimming pool and a fully equipped air-conditioned gymnasium.

The only facility of its kind in the country, the Early Learning Village will offer families a choice of education grounded by the International Baccalaureate (IB) with two pathways: the Australian or American curriculum. This unparalleled project reflects Cognita’s modern and innovative approach to learning. It also represents a world-first in early childhood education – one tailored to the distinct environment of Singapore, where space is at a premium.

The seven-storey building has a total capacity for 2,200 students – the largest ever for this age group – while the special design ensures a child-centred focus and scale to all spaces and facilities – from classrooms and play areas to the libraries and specialist programme areas.

Australian International School

Holistic – valuing academics, sports and the arts – is how the Australian International School describes its approach to excellence in education. Most of all, the school takes pride in its non-selective admissions policy, which reinforces Cognita’s belief that intellectual ability alone does not determine an individual’s worth or contribution to the world.

“A strong sense of character and life skills that can be taken anywhere in the world – these are what we aim to instil in every AIS student,” says school principal Andre Casson. “We are equally resolute in teaching our students to have a moral commitment to making our world a better place as reflective, caring, knowledgeable and principled people.”

If there is one accomplishment that Cognita aims to be known for, it is preparing the students in our care for lives that may be different, complex and challenging without forgetting they should be sustainable, rewarding and fulfilling
Michael Drake, CEO of Cognita Asia

Established in 1993, AIS is the only southern-hemisphere school in Singapore that offers an Australian curriculum-based global education for students aged 18 months to 18 years. The school has 2,500 students who come from more than 50 different countries.

At the Early Learning Village, the school’s youngest students will learn naturally through play – within and across classrooms, outdoor spaces and other specialised facilities. The students will progress through the Village as learning spaces and facilities are differentiated according to the developmental age of each year level.

Stamford American International School

As it embarks on its 9th year, Stamford American International School has already built a strong reputation among Singapore’s most innovative international schools. It takes pride in its state-of-the-art Woodleigh campus, offering the full IB programme integrated with American standards, aligned with the August-to-June northern hemisphere academic calendar.

“Stamford American understands that every student is a unique individual,” says Dr Eric Sands,superintendent and head of school. “Beyond academics, we aspire to equip them with the knowledge and experiences in and out of the classroom needed to face the tests of adult life ahead.”

Through the Early Learning Village, Stamford American will create a new way of learning, especially in partnership with acclaimed industry leaders for programmes such as Suzuki violin music, bilingual and daily Putonghua and Spanish languages, physical education SMART steps, and stand-out after-school enrichment.

“At the Early Learning Village, our younger students will be able to explore their natural inclination to create, design, engineer and innovate,” Sands says. “Their newly built environment may be educational by design, but it is also developed to make children feel at home – with clever touches including child-sized doors, step-up work benches and child-height icon signage. And the environment is adaptive, so stimulation activities can change as the children grow and thrive.”

Opportunities and growth in Southeast Asia

Cognita has more than 30,000 students and 5,200 teaching and support staff across its 68 schools. In its move towards a broader presence in Asia, Cognita has also brought the Stamford American brand to Hong Kong, where its new campus will open in September. It will also expand the International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) in Vietnam later this year.

Alongside its continued growth, expansions and improvements, Cognita also aims to create a more enviable teaching environment to attract the very best educators to deliver world-class education.

“At the end of the day, a marvellous facility can only be as good as the teaching and learning inside it,” Drake says.

With an ultimate mission of preparing students for future success in an uncertain world, Cognita knows that the path ahead will be challenging and constantly evolving, but it is confident that the three building blocks it focuses on – quality education, building character and instilling a global mindset – will be key in achieving its objectives.

“The know-how we seek to equip our students with will help them adapt and succeed in life – that is where the skills of being inquisitive, adaptable, curious and resilient will be extremely important,” Drake says. “If there is one accomplishment that Cognita aims to be known for, it is preparing the students in our care for lives that may be different, complex and challenging without forgetting they should be sustainable, rewarding and fulfilling.”

“Our model enables us to have schools around the world working together and collaborating on projects that bring students together to learn about different people and cultures first-hand,” Drake says. “This is the kind of enrichment and global perspective that the average classroom cannot provide.

“Ultimately, we see our role is to prepare our students to be successful despite the unknown challenges they will face in their future.”