Education for the 21st Century
The wheel chart shows the necessary components to ensure a quality 21st-century education for today’s students. All components are critical: none can be omitted.
We Start with a Successful Vision for a
At the turn of the previous century—and as a direct result of the demands of business and industry—one-room schoolhouses gradually began to give way to schools that would provide the education necessary for life in the 20th century: larger schools, with students segmented by grades or ages, with an emphasis on providing workers for a productive manufacturing and agricultural economy. In these schools, all students were tracked. The brightest were chosen to receive an education that would allow them to head off to universities, while others were tracked into instruction that would provide the skills necessary for middle management positions. Still others were tracked to receive the kind of training that would lead to clerical positions, and the majority of students were tracked into the kind of vocational preparation sufficient for farming, labor, or manufacturing.
Today, over a hundred years later, the vast majority of public schools, unfortunately still operate in the same way, even though the world has changed dramatically in the last hundred years. Technology has changed. Businesses demand new, more adaptable skills. Global competition is a way of life for most companies. Thus, as the 21st century unfolds, students need to learn new skills in school: fluency in additional world languages combined with an in-depth understanding of the world due to increased globalization; they need an education that fosters curiosity, creativity, innovation, motivation, adaptability, and critical thinking; an excellent ability to communicate, collaborate, and lead; all while simultaneously mastering traditional core subjects and remaining grounded in an ethical commitment toward others.
In other words, education in the 21st century requires far more than simply attending classes in social studies, mathematics, and English, with progress and success based on rote memorization and standardized tests. The problem, however, is that few schools have the ability to implement the changes necessary to create a new, 21st-century educational learning community. In the public sector, schools are driven by the need to “teach to the test.” In the private setting, many—if not most—independent schools are rooted in traditions and cultures that are difficult to change because of entrenched faculty and alumni. And yet the world keeps changing, and thus, little by little, students in the United States are falling behind those in the rest of the world, even in the best schools that our country can offer.
The Epiphany School of Global Studies has neither of these problems. Because the school was founded in the 21st century, it had the ability to start from scratch when designing an academic program that would fully meet the needs of today’s students. We were able to utilize the latest research in education and global realities to design a unique and comprehensive, 21st-century academic program that fully prepares students for the world they will be facing.
Students need an education driven by a clear Mission and Guiding Principles that spell out exactly the skills that are needed in the 21st century, so both faculty and students have a clear roadmap of what to expect.
At The Epiphany School of Global Studies, the Mission and Guiding Principles are clear, concise, and easily understood. We believe that students need to be educated intellectually, socially, emotionally, and ethically. They need a college-preparatory education that stresses mastery of core academic subjects with additional preparation for the ever-increasing effects of globalization. There are world language fluency goals, a curriculum that stresses understanding the world, and unparalleled opportunities to learn abroad. Students need to sharpen necessary 21st-century skills like curiosity, creativity, communication, and adaptability, while simultaneously mastering the core academic skills necessary for success in life. They need significant access to, and an ability to use, technology. They need to be grounded in respect, responsibility, and integrity, with multiple service opportunities, all while living to the best of their ability the commandment to Love God and Your Neighbor as Yourself.
Students need an education in which they remain motivated to learn—an academic program with opportunities for play and passion that simultaneously remain serious in purpose.
At The Epiphany School of Global Studies, the academic program was designed to ensure that our students continue to enjoy learning. We understand that learning is a partnership that requires both dedicated teachers and motivated students. While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of pieces to this complicated puzzle, maintenance of the joy of learning begins with a school culture that promotes kindness, inclusiveness, and ethics. Add in multiple cocurricular opportunities, Student Advisory, retreats, field trips, and Chapel—all of which heighten the enjoyment while offering significant learning opportunities outside the classroom—and the puzzle seems simpler. In various subjects, it was imperative that we set in place a culture that allows students to experience learning in further nontraditional—and often international—ways: as they hike the Inca Trail, visit museums in Washington, D.C., wander the somber grounds of Auschwitz, catch butterflies as part of their elementary science class, or even learn how mail is sorted at the post office. We further wanted to stress the celebration of talent of any kind, and to encourage further development of that talent. And finally, with the addition of a variety of classroom teaching styles—from lecture based to the Socratic method—making each class unique, what remains is an education that feels new and fresh to the students on a daily basis.
Volumes of research have indicated what parents have long suspected: the single greatest influence in education is the quality of teaching. At The Epiphany School of Global Studies, only excellent teachers are hired. All are experts in their various fields with years of experience in the classroom. All of them understand that learning flows both ways, and students are partners in their own learning. Most implement a variety of teaching methods to encourage—and heighten—student motivation to learn. They utilize large and small groups, and alternately encourage student collaboration or have students learn on their own. Others engage in socratic style discussions facing each other around a table where thoughts and ideas flow freely as teachers guide students in the process of learning to think critically. All teachers have access to laboratories and media centers, and all classrooms are fitted with up-to-date technology that our teachers are trained to use.
In evaluating the skills our students need in the 21st century—curiosity, creativity, adaptability, innovation, discipline, and motivation—it’s obvious that teachers in the 21st century must have those same skills as well. At The Epiphany School of Global Studies, we understand that teaching is as much an art as it is a science. Our teachers are given the latitude necessary to ensure that students remain engaged in their own learning while simultaneously mastering the necessary content. There is, after all, no “magic textbook” or “magical method” that works in all circumstances and for every student. We ask and encourage our teachers to experiment in the hopes of reaching every student. We also understand that “moving beyond the departmental silos” of traditional education is also beneficial, and interdisciplinary learning is evident among the faculty. We encourage mentoring programs among faculty members so all teachers can strive to improve their methods. Regular assessments ensure that classes remain wedded to the idea that learning is best accomplished when both teachers and students are motivated in their educational partnership. And finally, all faculty members are encouraged to pursue additional professional development in order to further increase their skills.
Without a base of core knowledge, there can be no critical thinking; thus, if one of our goals is to develop critical thinking among students, then the students must attain a high level of core academic knowledge. At The Epiphany School of Global Studies we provide an education in the best tradition of the liberal arts, with humanities taught in partnership with science, technology, and math. Furthermore, we created a specific emphasis within the overall curriculum in three other areas: reading, writing and rhetoric, global studies, and SAT preparation. Ultimately, we designed the entire curriculum to prepare students to be accepted to—and thrive in—the most prestigious universities in the country and around the world. Together with a consistent emphasis on technology, our school curriculum turns out students who are well prepared to face the future, whatever it may bring.
Students need an education that allows them to experience firsthand the world beyond our borders in order to fully prepare them for the ever-increasing effects of globalization.
The thought of teaching ethics and virtues might seem old-fashioned to some; to others, it might even be politically incorrect. At The Epiphany School of Global Studies, however, we believe that education runs deeper than simply reading and debating the works of Tolstoy or performing equations in calculus and chemistry. Education, at its best, is supposed to enrich the life of a student, and we believe that learning the virtues of respect, integrity, responsibility, and service are critical to the development of young people as they engage on their life’s journey. The ethical commandment to Love God and Your Neighbor as Yourself is a goal to which all in our school community aspire, not only in our country, but around the world.
Students need an education that promotes critical thinking and the ability to ask the right questions.
Students need an education that promotes and develops: curiosity, adaptability, persistence, discipline, creativity, innovation, and motivation.
What makes you curious? An interesting question, perhaps, or a dilemma that makes you wonder. What makes you adapt? A “monkey wrench” thrown into the mix, something you didn’t expect, while a problem that you need to fix remains nonetheless. What is required of persistence? Internally driven diligence and a desire to change. What does discipline mean? Regularly engaging in a specific activity that improves a particular skill. What about creativity? It’s the ability to think differently than others. How about innovation? When something new is introduced. And finally, what does it mean to be motivated? In this educational context, it means desire.
To develop these skills in a school, the academic program must highlight the necessity of developing these specific skills. In fact, the development of these particular skills drive the design and implementation of the entire curriculum, and they form part of the basis for faculty evaluations as it pertains to teaching methods. While many of the classes might look the same as those you might find at the finest private schools in the country, teachers at The Epiphany School of Global Studies are additionally charged with developing in students these particular skills, in order to prepare them for life in the 21st century.