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Learning beyond the classroom

Is there more to education than just academics? We asked Bryan Nixon, the head at international school TASIS England, for his views on how to think beyond the classroom.

Bryan Nixon is head teacher at TASIS England, the independent international day and boarding school in the Surrey village of Thorpe. With just over 600 students from over 50 different countries, the school is brilliant at harnessing the different experiences of its students – many of whom have travelled extensively and lived in diverse communities throughout the world.

When I first met Bryan I was struck by his passion for instilling a responsibility in his students that went well beyond just academic challenges and success. He encourages students to learn about themselves and the responsibility they have towards their own futures, their communities and the future of their communities.

Here are Bryan’s thoughts on why students need to learn more than just the academics at school and his advice for how students can grow and achieve outside the classroom.

Many initiatives in schools today are far too focused on academic rigour rather than the student’s actual learning journey. Personally, I have always found the use of the word ‘rigour’ interesting. Can it really mean a mixture of thought, care, severity, harshness and demand all rolled into one?

While focusing on academics is of course a necessity in schools, there is too much emphasis on striving for the mythical ‘academic excellence’ – which usually translates as great examination grades and university placements – and not enough on the actual learner. Schools are too often too focussed on achieving high academic grades, and not enough on the actual process of preparing students for higher education and life beyond.

So, in a world obsessed with results and reputation, have we lost sight of the personal and social development of each child or learner in our care and their own unique way of learning and discovering?

Are we in danger of creating a type of human robot that can answer questions from a content-based curriculum but lacks insight, perspective, a willingness to question and the courage to try and fail as they innovate and create?

In order to readdress the balance of academic learning with the need to develop self and communities, I came up with these pointers.

1. You are your own worst enemy:

  • Doubt, worry and anxiety will do more to slow you down than anything anyone or any situation can cause.
  • Be confident, self-assured and see mistakes as opportunities to learn.


2. The only limits are those you make for yourself

  • If you truly believe in taking risks, making mistakes and life-long learning there really is no limit to what you can achieve.
  • Irish playwright and critic George Bernhard Shaw summarises this perfectly when he said: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”


3. Be selfless and serve

  • Give of yourself: your intellect, your time, your love, your friendship and your success.
  • Such service is transformative as it puts the needs of others first and helps develop and embolden the people around you to grow and flourish.
  • By giving, you enrich the lives of others, build better communities and organisations and ultimately create an environment for real creativity, synergy and joy.


4. Joy comes from relationships not material

  • Joy is different to happiness.
  • Happiness depends on external factors such as great test scores, being invited to a party etc.
  • Joy comes from within. It is inward peace and contentment and relates more to the care, love and sense of belonging we gain from our relationships
  • Find joy in your lives through the people you meet, relate to and care for. This joy is so much stronger than happiness and with it comes a deep sense of gratitude.
  • Make sure your express that gratitude for others who give so much to your life.


And finally, there are four words that unite these four thoughts which will help students think beyond the classroom, gain stronger perspective, and help them fulfil their potential. In fact, they may be the most important words they’ll carry with tehm and use at university, in any workplace, any relationship or use to overcome any challenge.

If you remember anything from this article, I hope you remember these four words: How can I help?


You can arrange a personal tour of the TASIS England by calling the admissions team.

TASIS, Coldharbour Lane, Thorpe, Surrey, TW20 8TE. Tel: 01932 565252.

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