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Wednesday February 1st, 2023

OSC: Nurturing the Leaders of Tomorrow

Dr Michelle Kleiss Head of School, The Overseas School of Colombo

With a holistic and wholesome education that encourages self-direction, reflection, student voice, choice, and ownership, OSC’s learning model is process-based and grounded in the real world, providing a platform for exploring diverse global perspectives.

Dr Michelle Kleiss, Head of School of Sri Lanka’s oldest internationally accredited educational institution, shares insights into how The Overseas School of Colombo (OSC) is nurturing the leaders of tomorrow with a learning model that extends above and beyond the realm of academia. Dr Kleiss talks about the values OSC instils in its students; values that foster diversity and inclusion and encourage students and adults alike to strive towards making a difference in their communities and the world around them.

As the oldest internationally accredited educational institution in the country, founded in 1957, how is The Overseas School of Colombo making a difference in the education sphere?

At The Overseas School of Colombo (OSC), we make a difference every day by developing compassion, curiosity and courage in the young people we educate. In our school, we foster the concept of community to provide a deep sense of belonging.

by teaching our students how to respect differences, lead with purpose and impact, and build intercultural understanding. We deliver the IB Programme at all three levels, from early years to high school, to broaden our students’ educational experiences and challenge their application of knowledge and skills. Within the three programmes, we teach and encourage independence, integrity, rigour, a high level of research and academic standards, ethics and inclusion. Our students have co-curricular activities to strengthen their interests, build on their strengths, and take risks with new opportunities. At OSC, our students learn that their voice matters and are motivated to find new and fresh solutions to problems that will make a difference in their communities and the world around them.

What is your approach to education that makes OSC unique and impactful?

At OSC, our Learning Model is defined as learning that goes beyond the academic life of students. The learning our students encounter encompasses academic, social, physical and community interests that result in shaping an individual who embraces learning throughout their life. It is engaging, with opportunities for self-direction, reflection, student voice, choice, and ownership. The learning is process-based and grounded in the real world, providing a platform for exploring diverse global perspectives. Students are challenged to connect, extend and transfer relevant knowledge and skills.

We create transdisciplinary units and interdisciplinary inquiries, so our students find relevance in their studies and then can transfer their understanding between one subject and another. We foster a culture of learning that sparks joy, deep and critical thinking and inquiry and personalizes our educational programme to meet the interests and strengths of our learners.

Our regular and consistent implementation of the 7 Cs describes how we approach teaching and learning at OSC:

CARE – Teachers who care show concern for our students’ emotional and academic well-being. They develop supportive, personalized relationships with students, cultivate an emotionally safe environment and respond consistently to students’ social, emotional, and academic learning needs.

CONFER – Teachers who confer encourage and value students’ ideas and views. They seek and respect students’ thoughts, opinions, and input as part of the learning process.

CAPTIVATE – Teachers who captivate spark and maintain student interest in learning. They stimulate and engage students by cultivating curiosity and inquiry and by making lessons interesting, relevant, and enjoyable.

CLARIFY – Teachers who clarify help students understand content and resolve confusion. They explain ideas and concepts in a variety of ways, check frequently for understanding, address misconceptions, and provide useful feedback.

CONSOLIDATE – Teachers who consolidate help students integrate and synthesize key ideas. They summarize and make connections in ways that help students see relationships within and across lessons, remember ideas, and build understanding over time.

CHALLENGE – Teachers who challenge students insist that they persevere and do their best work. They hold students to high academic standards, encourage persistence, and monitor student effort.

CL ASSROOM MANAGEMENT – Teachers who are effective at classroom management foster orderly, respectful, and on-task classroom behaviour. They create conditions that enable learning, including establishing a positive classroom climate, teaching self-management skills, monitoring student conduct, and redirecting unproductive behaviour.

At OSC, we live our mission by creating space and time for learners to engage in mutually respectful and enriching connections. Our service learning and Sri Lankan cultural heritage programmes provide our students with rich opportunities to learn from others and give to others. We teach intercultural understanding, development and competencies, foster a culture of learning that sparks joy, thinking and inquiry and nurture personal identity so every learner feels a sense of belonging. Every day there is an invitation to all of our learners to persevere in their learning journey.

What does leadership mean to you? How does the school teach or impart those values that make a good leader, helping students develop and hone their leadership skills?

To me, leadership means the empowerment and development of the people under my care.

This means we aim to provide opportunities and coaching for our students and staff, so they may fulfil their potential in our school. Distributed leadership is highly valued across our community so that everyone can exercise ownership and shape their voice, choice and agency as mindful learners and leaders in the school community. Research tells us that school leadership is a massive responsibility and is only second to instructional effectiveness when it comes to effect size on student achievement. School leaders are called to build the collective efficacies of the communities they serve so that all the resources in that community stand behind the students and their learning and well-being. Imparting these values means a school needs to give space for taking risks, making mistakes, restoration, and goal setting. It is a design cycle that allows children and adults to try new approaches for impact – impact on themselves, on others and within the communities we live.

What are the values the school tries to instil in its students?

The values that OSC aims for include:

  1. Community and relationships
  2. Process and growth
  3. Integrity and dignity
  4. Empowerment and taking action
  5. Sustainability
  6. Creativity and expression

The OSC motto is Unity in Diversity. Why is this so important, especially from a leadership perspective?

“Unity in Diversity” is the most revered motto in our school.

Our students and staff truly believe that it is only when we integrate the perspectives of everyone in our community do we create something new and something better than what we had before. Our job is to keep pushing ourselves to become better than before, challenge the status quo, and create new understandings. This is what will make a difference to everyone and what will help us reach a greater impact. Whether this is related to our belief in sustainability, community, relationships, competitive or recreational athletics, the math and sciences, or in the performing arts, at OSC we are teaching our students to have a growth mindset by integrating other people’s perspectives. Only when we truly practice unity in our diversity can we be all we can be as human beings joined together in our common humanity.