Boosting achievement, Asian-style

Graham Cooper

Prior to joining Capita, Graham spent 13 years in teaching; as a Science teacher, head of ICT and, latterly, as the deputy head of a large Secondary school in Manchester. This is where he first became passionate about the impact of management information systems on student achievement. As head of Education at SIMS Independent, his focus remains on ensuring schools across the UK and overseas use SIMS to drive efficiency and raise standards.

Follow @G_Cooper

Follow @SIMSIndependent

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Image credit: Image credit:

When today’s young people leave education, they are likely to face stiff competition to get to that first rung on the career ladder. The quality, rounded education that schools deliver is key to preparing their students for a world beyond the classroom. But for a high-achieving school, it can be difficult to continue to raise the bar of achievement. That’s why I was so interested in the novel approach taken by Jerudong International School (JIS) in Brunei, where students are encouraged to drive their own progress.

Students in the driving seat

When schools assess their students and set targets for the year, this is usually carried out by teachers, subject leaders and heads of department. How often do staff ask the students themselves which levels they have reached, and what they should be aiming for?

At JIS, students are continually encouraged to engage in self-assessment. Using this approach, the children decide which level of learning is right for them, and set themselves challenging-yet-realistic targets “The students make remarkably accurate judgements on what action is needed. ”to aim for. Working alongside their teachers, the students use the achievement data recorded in the schools’ management information system (MIS) to gain a clearer insight into how they are progressing in all of their subjects, and make remarkably accurate judgements on what action is needed to help them achieve more.

JIS principal Barnaby Sandow explains: “I recently watched a badminton lesson where the children decided which court they should play on, according to their own judgement of their ability. Their accuracy on what level was appropriate for them was remarkable.

“Our staff work closely with the children to help them develop their self-assessment skills for learning, which in turn, gives students such as those in the badminton group a clear understanding of their individual potential and what they should be aiming for to improve their game.”

Building confidence

One of the key aspects of this approach is that students are encouraged to recognise their different strengths, qualities and abilities.

With around 55 different nationalities coming together to learn on the lush island of Borneo, JIS is a vibrant cultural melting pot, where both boarding and day students enjoy a 120-acre campus surrounded by rainforest beaches and the cleanest air in Asia.

However, for some children with English as their fourth or even fifth language, speaking up in class can seem quite a daunting prospect. With respect being an important part of the Asian culture, students might also hold back from expressing their opinions in class, for fear of disagreeing with a teacher.

To overcome these barriers, staff at JIS empower students to develop their critical thinking skills and reinforce the view that there is not always a right and wrong answer. As Barnaby describes: “The younger children “Some of the sixth formers completely overhauled our rewards system.”sit in a circle and they are set a topic or open idea to discuss. One of the real favourites is the question, ‘Is Batman a superhero?’ There is no ‘right’ answer to this. It fires the children’s imaginations, and everyone has an opinion that they are actively encouraged to share.”

The school looked at different ways to work with older students to drive achievement and encourage them to take responsibility for their own success, as by the time children reach Year 8, the prospect of earning merits starts to lose its appeal.

Inspiring young leaders

To keep students higher up the school motivated to achieve, staff at JIS engaged them in designing the school’s reward system, which sparked a truly inventive idea. Some of the sixth formers completely overhauled our rewards system and created a scheme called Polio Points. Each time a student achieves something inside or outside class, or demonstrates exceptional conduct which ties in with one of our school aims, for example, they earn a merit. This is recorded on the school’s MIS.

Once a student achieves a full set of merits against each of the six school aims, they are given a US dollar, which goes towards vaccinating a child in the developing world against polio.

“When a child presents an idea like this, even the most cynical teacher would feel motivated to make it happen,” says Barnaby. “It was amazing to be able to stand up at the end of the year and tell the children that as a result of their outstanding efforts, 4,600 less fortunate children will be able to go on and do outstanding things too.”

JIS certainly lives up to its school motto, Achieving Excellence. Through this initiative, the school has demonstrated that, by putting students in control, it is possible for even the highest-performing school to raise the bar further, and continually inspire children to drive their own achievement. A valuable life lesson for any child.

Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"