The Situational Approach is an important principle of the School for Life. It fosters the idea of using real-life scenarios for accompanied learning, so that students and teaching staff can work together to solve real problems in meaningful ways.
It refers to situations in the past and present and enables learners not only to exist in them, but to shape them. To achieve the aim of learning by doing, it is important for students to examine realities and situations and to identify which issues are relevant and what knowledge is required in order for students to face them.
Academic and scientific knowledge is of great value, but in terms of learning in complex, real-world situations, it is critical that individuals are armed with interdisciplinary competence and the tools to apply their knowledge in their day to day lives – in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.
The Situational Approach is integrated into the curriculum of the School for Life with the goal of supporting youth and children in their development of autonomous and competent persons able to address of present and future problems with respect to their communities (solidarity).
Autonomy refers to self-determination, individual initiative, and independence. Competence implies knowledge and skill to act properly in complex situations. Competence is conveyed in comprehensive social settings, which is why the Situational Approach differs from a conventional conveyance of knowledge that focuses only on individual ‘pieces of a pie’.
At the School for Life, solidarity means a sense of community and an awareness of sharing the world. This includes protecting the weak, avoiding discrimination, being equitable, peaceful, and striving towards conciliation, not power over others.
The School for Life assumes a consensus concerning basic values of an organized community based on equal participation. Children and young people can claim the right to handle situations with increasing autonomy and competence; at the same time they are challenged to show solidarity with others or act with ecological responsibility.
The School for Life can be considered as a polis in the sense borrowed from ancient Greece: a small-scale model of a state based on participation. The pupils increasingly take over functions and responsibilities and share these with the adults. Life in the Open Learning Community offers many chances of bringing a strong sense of self and an equally strong sense of community into a healthy relationship with each other, and preparing decisions by means of a democratic process of consensus building. Participation does not exclude leadership – on the contrary, it depends on good leadership. Business enterprises also require strong leadership and the loyalty of their employees, but it is to the advantage of any business to keep up a meaningful dialog with its teams. The leading international boarding schools, founded by such personalities as Kurt Hahn, have long recognized the pedagogical opportunities offered by communal life. There are elected offices and duties, school parliaments and school speakers. Politics is learned by assuming responsibility in the community.
In order to educate students to be responsible entrepreneurs of the future, the School for Life teaches them to consider the environment, resources, and the happiness of the individual and society – in addition to the business aspects of their ideas. The teaching approach aims to demonstrate the value of happiness, community and sustainability in the context of profit, material gains and the life of an entrepreneur.
The aim of the School is this: for students to discover the quality of intelligent modesty. The laws of market demand do not have to mean yet another contribution to the relentless spiral of consumption. Instead, the market also offers a chance to make enlightened and economical use of scarce resources.
The School for Life aims to create awareness that allows both adults and children to realize that quality of life does not come about through the accumulation of high-tech products or material possessions, but rather, through the establishment of strong relationships, engaged neighborhoods, educational or physical accomplishments, the expressions of feelings, or becoming artistically or entrepreneurially active.
Entrepreneurs in the spirit of intelligent modesty become inventors and supporters of products and services that put a stop to overproduction and the squandering of resources, and so ensure that quality of life is increased rather than reduced.
In many countries the relationship between the educational system and the employment system is badly out of balance. In the face of the ever-increasing competition in the world market, education is a critical tool enabling people to address challenges and to create jobs appropriate to world market conditions. With the guidance and expertise of qualified teachers, students can learn valuable entrepreneurial behavior from a young age.
The School for Life serves to create a culture of entrepreneurship within its programs (the curriculum) as well as with its organization and structure (the setting). It will support children, adolescents and participating adults in developing entrepreneurial ideas and in particular, will encourage students to work collaboratively to find paths for turning their ideas into feasible businesses and organisations.
Solidarity means a sense of community and an awareness of sharing the world.
Use and design your environment – children learning how to build their playground
(School for Life Chiang Mai)
Intercultural education means educating for international understanding at one’s own doorstep. The School for Life is a place where children of different nations, religions and socio-cultural origins can learn to live together in an atmosphere of tolerance and solidarity. Intercultural education helps us to make sense of our own cultures and to find our individual identity within it. It also means having the ability to look beyond our own horizons to comprehend that all people live within the one world, and that the key to understanding is acceptance of others in peace and mutual freedom.
In 1974, the 18th meeting of the UNESCO General Conference passed its “Recommendation for International Understanding, Cooperation and Peace and Education Relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through the Teaching of Ethical and Humanistic Values”. The School for Life intends to make its particular mark in the implementation of these recommendations, and to share its experience with other interested
In her preface to the 1986 edition of the Curriculum “World Concerns and the United Nations”, developed by the United Nations, Adelaide Kernochan writes:
“[Today] society is becoming more and more international, consequently the international dimensions of education are becoming increasingly important. As stressed in the resolutions and studies of the United Nations and UNESCO
- Students need to be aware of world developments and their effects on people’s lives;
- International education involves not only knowledge but also attitudes, values and behavior and therefore should be integral to all aspects of the school experience;
- Learning about UN aims, concerns and activities can help young people to understand and participate in the growing world community.”
Among the basic concepts fundamental to this curriculum are “world community” and “international education”. Just as for the United Nations the term “world community” does not explicitly mean a kind of world government or administration, similarly, “international education” does not imply interfering with local or national education approaches. Both concepts must be understood as an invitation “to understand major world problems and the related aims and actions of the United Nations family of organizations” (from the ‘Introduction’ to the curriculum).
The Development Forum (Vol. XVI, No. 2, March 1986) of the United Nations reported on the development of the so-called Life-Situational Approach in the context of preschool and intercultural education in different countries, and pointed out the transferability of such ideas to the concept of international understanding promoted by UNESCO: the ideas and techniques inaugurated here can be translated and developed for international education at any level in any subject. By focusing on universal experiences, students develop empathy and a sense of the oneness with humankind.
Appreciating and learning from diversity is basic to international education, no matter what the topic. Community experience can help students to understand the new internationalism – a world in which all can contribute in their own ways, where ‘we’ (not ‘we’ versus ‘they’) work together to better the community as a whole.”
Tolerance and respect are highly valued virtues and the members of the School for Life orient themselves on social virtues and universal ethics that can be understood by people of various social and cultural heritages.
Among such universal truths are values such as respect for others, the innate worth of every human being, truthfulness, respect for nature, fairness, readiness and ability to help, consideration of – and attention to – others, willingness to work and achieve, a modest bearing, peace-oriented behavior, solidarity with the weak, perseverance, and the ability, as Kurt Hahn puts it, to learn to assert yourself for something you think is right “in spite of discomforts, dangers, boredom, momentary impulses, or stress, in spite of the scorn from others, in spite of general scepticism.”
The School for Life will support children, adolescents, and adults to practice their own religion and to learn more about it in religious classes. The experience of one’s own religion can lay the foundations for respect and tolerance of the religious convictions of others.