The building blocks of every nation are the young minds that need shaping so that they can strive for a better future. Bringing in the expertise required, exploring countless options, enriching themselves with ideas and implementing them, are all part of a student’s life. There are very few institutions that are creating a space that exposes young students to new horizons and motivates them to go beyond.
One such apex institute committed to helping every student under its umbrella for the past eighteen years is the British International School of Chicago, South Loop (BISC-SL).
The school enables a vibrant community for students so that they can achieve academically, personally and socially. BISC-SL has a diverse student body representing more than forty nationalities. Also, there is a little transience at the school as 85% of the community is local. Since its origin in 2001, the school has always been a top choice for American and International families. Especially, the parents looking for an inspiring and challenging educational experience for their children, find their way to BISC-SL.
It is a very unique school where a total number of 650 students are challenged and supported as and when required. This makes the students stay engaged and keep learning at the same time. An interdisciplinary approach allows students to explore and take risks in a safe and nurturing environment, through British and international curricula both.
The world-class curricula of BISC-SL prides itself on preparing students for a dynamic market and to keep track with the technological advancements. The students are prepared for college and beyond. They are taught skills that are required for innovation in the economy. This skill-based approach explores the idea of sharing and negotiating, enhancing the social skills of the students influencing their personalities like building empathy and cooperation. By the time the students complete their high school graduation from BISC-SL, they are awarded the prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP). IBDP is different from normal high-school diplomas, it is a degree that sets the student apart on transcripts and resumes, signifying well-rounded global citizens that colleges and workplaces around the world are seeking.
Being a member of Nord Anglia Education, a family of premium education institutes around the world, BISC-SL students benefit from enriched curricular. The curricular includes the school’s collaborations with The Juilliard School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and UNICEF. Following is a detailed description of the collaborations:
- Juilliard Collaboration
The school believes Juilliard is a world-class education facilitator in all three core performing arts, which BSIC-SL teaches in an integrated fashion. It gives the students a first-class learning experiences and also provides high-level professional training with personal development opportunities for the teachers and faculty as well. “We are passionate about all three performing arts.” Students experience music, dance, and drama forming an important part of the curriculum from the age of three through Middle School.
- MIT Collaboration
Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) play an invaluable part in helping the children in developing academic, social, and personal success. MIT contributes with an approach to practical, hands-on problem solving through which students develop skills such as creativity, curiosity, resilience, resourcefulness, collaboration, and confidence.
- UNICEF Collaboration
With the help of UNICEF, the students at BISC-SL are motivated to enhance their social consciousness. This helps in making the students understand, care, and value the environment, the world and the people living in it. Through special activities and events with UNICEF, students become equipped to make their voice heard on the world stage while making a lasting and positive difference. “Your child will research, develop and debate challenges facing our society, and take action to address them.”
All the students get to participate in real-world learning activities and international service-learning trips that are offered in High School. The Global Campus of BISC-SL allows students to explore other countries virtually – in school, online, and worldwide.
Academic Excellence & Beyond
At BISC-SL, the lessons are planned and presented according to the learning pattern of each of the students. “Our teachers know every student individually and can respond to their strengths by adapting our learning model to help them overcome challenges.” Highly skilled in differentiated learning styles, the teachers instill a love of learning, encourage independent inquiry, and ensure that children actively participate in the learning process. “We personalize learning for each child so they can understand and articulate their own learning goals as well as recognize the strategies that help them learn best.”
The International curriculum of BISC-SL combines the strengths of the best in the world:
- International Primary Curriculum\ Early Years Foundation Stage framework
- English National Curriculum
- International General Certificates of Secondary Education (IGCSE)
- International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)
The engaging curriculum at BISC-SL, coupled with high expectations and academic standards enables students to meet and exceed their potential. They also perform well beyond expectations for their age. “Our students are internationally-minded, global citizens.” The school embeds core values such as mutual respect, adaptability, resilience, risk-taking, and reflection in students so that they can feel safe to try new things in a nurturing environment.
The school values socio-economic diversity. It proudly offers need-based financial aid. The financial aid awards are based solely on financial need regardless of race, religion or ethnic background. Similar to all independent schools, the funds for financial aid are limited.
Opportunities, Exposures, and a Guiding Light
‘The House’ system provides a whole-school approach to nurturing self-motivation, team building and friendly competition amongst the students. All of this contributes to the unmatched school community spirit. Throughout the school year, students strive to earn points for their individual Houses through community service, spirit days, inter-House competitions, for academic and pastoral achievements. “We tally House points at the end of the school year in pursuit of the coveted House of the Year Award.” As far as the career options are considered, BISC-SL enables Masterclasses in Primary which polishes different skills that students experience. Skills like podcasting, first-aid, and story writing. By Middle School, students participate in C.A.S.E. (Creativity, Action, Service, and Enhancement), a program to engage students in broad learning opportunities outside of the traditional curricula or classroom environment.
Every school needs a personality who not only oversees every aspect of the institution, but also ensures the overall well-being of the students first and foremost, then the faculty as well. A guiding benefactor who is able to show the right direction to the people in need, especially the young minds. One such person with extensive experience in teaching is Mike Henderson, the Principal of BISC-SL. He is a Computer Science graduate from Leeds University, and comes from a family of teachers. Hence, there was a certain inevitability about him joining the profession. Even though his graduation was in computer science, he trained to become a mathematics teacher. His teaching career began in 1995 at a large secondary school in Middlesbrough. Mike spent the next twenty years working in state schools in North East England, taking on a post of greater responsibility each time he moved establishments.
In 2013, Mike achieved his childhood ambition of becoming the Headteacher of his own secondary school. He led and managed the school for three years. Then an opportunity came to take his skills and experience to Washington DC as Head of Secondary at the British International School. He spent two and a half years at BISW and helped in transforming the secondary school. While his time there, he also developed an understanding and knowledge of the essentials to become a successful school leader in an international private school having an American setting. “I am now proud to have the opportunity to put my learning into practice here in Chicago,” says Mike. His educational philosophy is ‘it’s all about the learning’ and his focus solely remains on ensuring that the teachers skillfully make sure that their students master the subject matter that is being taught. All of this while having some fun and creating memorable moments along the way.