Students are not prepared for the future. Really?

Following a recent visit to Stamford American International School in Singapore, Dr. Simon Camby, Group Chief Education Director, shares reflections from his conversation with four Grade 10-12 students: Emma, Cara, Daisy, and Aryan. 

Education is written about daily – everyone has a view. It is great that so many people are interested. I read and listen because there is always something to learn. I increasingly notice that many commentators tell us that education systems are broken and that students are not being adequately prepared for their future. But I also notice something interesting from most of these sources. They are written by people that are, in the eyes of our students, old! Rarely does anyone ask students what they think. Without any doubt, there is much that we can continually do to improve, not because things are not good enough … because to continually adapt is at the heart of an effective school and an effective school system.

We should ask students their view and really, really listen.

I have this type of conversation in every school I visit in our global Cognita community. I was recently at Stamford American International School in Singapore and met with Emma (Grade 10), Cara (Grade 11), Daisy and Aryan (Grade 12). I was interested to understand how they view their preparation for life beyond school. Their responses were incredibly thoughtful and measured. Aryan started the conversation by noting that we cannot truly know because we really don’t know what the future holds, but we can make some best guesses. I reflected on the responses from Emma, Cara, Daisy and Aryan – three things resonated.

  1. Skills
  2. Attributes
  3. Mindset


The instinctive response from the students related to specific skills that they value and believe will pay dividends in higher education and the world of work. Specifically, they identify communication, creative thinking, critical thinking, leadership and teamwork as key.

Through history and English classes, I’ve learned to think critically about the world around me and see things from multiple perspectives.

My performing arts class, which is conducive to artistry, has helped me to develop a more creative mind, but also has improved my communication as I work with my peers to produce intriguing pieces of drama. I have become versatile through a combination of both activities.

Being on the high school leadership team as a house captain, helping to engage students and faculty in school activities, as well as boosting school spirit. My communication is demonstrated through the face-to-face interactions in assemblies, or videos promoting the activities. 


Aside from the skills identified above, the students also confidently state that there are some important attributes that they specifically discuss and nurture at school that, for them, are critical to life success. These include versatility, flexibility, perseverance, empathy and international mindedness.

Stamford has helped me develop important character attributes that will serve me well in all aspects of my life. Through community service and leadership, I’ve learned the value of empathy, teamwork and perseverance. I’ve had to develop my own sense of purpose and direction, which I know will guide me to pursue my goals and face challenges in the future.

I have learned to be flexible and open to the perspective of others, while also focusing on international mindedness.


The students were clear in their view that mindset plays a key role in managing yourself, making the link between mindset and overall wellbeing.

You can learn actual things but your mindset is key. Keeping balance and a positive outlook plays such an important part of managing yourself. That is key now and for the future.


My own view is that we must listen, really listen, to the voice of students in our care. They are remarkable. This conversation was thirty minutes over lunch, I learned so much simply from listening.

We should be mindful in overly expressing any perceptions about failings in the system and transmitting this to them. They deserve more. Above all, they deserve positivity. Can students ever be perfectly prepared? I think not. Can we ensure that students have a personal backpack with tools they can use? I think so.

Cara and Emma summed this up better than I can.

In my pursuit of higher learning, these skills will be important as I will have to adapt to new environments and people within those environments. While I’m unsure of the career path that I will choose, I know that these skills will help me to be successful in my endeavours.

My experience at Stamford has given me a strong foundation for future success. I am confident that the skills, knowledge and character attributes that I have developed here will serve me well as I continue on my journey of lifelong learning and personal growth.

———— Back to the Thought Leadership

MAR 8   /  
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