Holistic Education is a defining aspect of a Cognita school. We are intentional in our use of this term and for us, it recognises that academic learning goes hand in hand with social and emotional learning; they support each other. You can find out more about our definition of Holistic Education and our guiding principles at the end of this article.

As a diverse global community, we recognise that an outstanding Holistic Education can be delivered in many different ways. There is no one size fits all model. Our schools work out the best interpretation for their local context.

To find out more about how one of our brilliant schools in Thailand is approaching this, Dr Simon Camby (Group Chief Education Officer) recently interviewed Charles Grayhurst (Head of School at St Andrew’s International School, Green Valley in Thailand) about Holistic Education in their context.

Hi Charlie, would you start by telling us a little about the context of Green Valley?

Of course. We are a small school that is located between Pataya and Rayong in Thailand, going from Early Years to Year 13, leading to the IB Diploma. Our students are from all over the world and we are an inclusive family. We get great academic outcomes but also value being an eco-literate school. This connects with our rural location in Thailand, ensuring that our children develop an understanding of the environment around them.

Can you help us understand the approach that you are taking when you think about Holistic Education?

It is about delivering an education which doesn’t separate or prioritise academics against social wellbeing development. I think of it as a web, or a system. This is about ensuring that academics and broader development go hand in hand. We know that a child that feels good about themselves and is able to express themselves confidently, is doing well and will then make strong academic progress.

We have used the Cognita Framework to really explore what Holistic Education means for us in our unique setting.

Could you say a little more about how you have done this?

The Cognita Framework includes ten contributors to Holistic Education. We took each of those and as a whole staff, defined what we want them to look like in practice in our school. Then asking, what can we do to make this happen? This is about breaking into small steps that are manageable.

In many ways, this was about creating a shared set of expectations.

For example, the first principle of holistic education in the Cognita Framework relates to physical and mental wellbeing. We defined what good looks like. But then we went further. We also defined what great looks like. This gives us a continuum to support our drive for excellence.

Once we had completed that and felt settled with our work, we undertook a self-evaluation to agree where we believe we sit in relation to each of the ten principles. Where do we think we are now, at this point in time? What’s the evidence to support this view? And then over the course of a few years, we’ve then set ourselves the expectation that we would move each continuum, year on year and do different things to reach excellence within our framework.

So, if I’ve heard you correctly, you’ve worked hard to make sure that you’ve got community buy-in so that everybody understands the direction; that you’ve set yourself some standards that are tiered so that you can monitor the progress over time and then that’s the way that you hold yourselves to account by checking the progress and measuring the impact. Is that correct?

Yes, that that’s correct.

This work then feeds into our strategic groups across the school.

Thanks Charlie, for giving your time and for shining a light on the process you are leading to embed a truly Holistic Education at Green Valley. Your school has a distinctive context and you are clearly working hard to match your offer and your interpretation of Holistic Education to the Green Valley context, which is really, really important. So, thank you very much.

In our definition, Holistic Education intentionally blends social, emotional, physical and cognitive learning. This leads to strong academic outcomes, agency, an adaptive mindset and positive attitudes to thrive in a rapidly evolving world. Effective holistic education is rooted in the concept of self-efficacy, a belief that ‘I can’.

Underpinning our focus on Holistic Education, we have a set of contributory principles that enables school leaders to ask searching questions about what is going well and what more can be done to continually improve the quality of education for the students in their care.

The contributors to Holistic Education are:

  1. Physical and mental wellbeing as foundations for positive human development
  2. Relationships rooted in care and trust that create a positive culture
  3. Interpersonal and self-regulation skills in all aspects of the curriculum
  4. Learning experiences that are rich, aspirational, challenging and relevant to the needs of all students
  5. An evidence-informed pedagogical framework that embeds responsive teaching and academic rigour
  6. Assessment and feedback informing academic monitoring to accelerate progress
  7. Digital competence as an enabler for learning
  8. Social purpose and responsibility embedded in learning and school life
  9. Diverse perspectives to develop a global mindset
  10. Behaviour and language that develop an adaptive mindset for students