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The Power of Questioning
Cultivating an Inquiry-Driven Approach at FIS
For many organizations, the level of inquisitiveness is a key indicator of growth, and it is no coincidence
that our school promises in our Mis- sion Statement to be “inquiry-driven.” This has many implications, but one that is obvious is that FIS encourages students of all ages to come to classes with their minds filled with questions.
As parents, we can sometimes be surprised by our own children’s curiosity. In the early days of my family’s strategy to make a multilingual environment work, I distinctly remember when my young son asked, “Daddy, why do you understand mummy when she speaks German but not when I do?” Other parents have shared similar queries that prove to test our patience: “Why do you look so old?” or “Did you used to be smart?” and others which are hard to print here because of their propensity to make us grimace.
While children’s questions can sometimes be unwarranted, creating an atmosphere at home and school where questions are encouraged and celebrated is central to successful learning. Looking back through history, the power of questioning was at the heart of my own favorite period, the Enlightenment. In fact, it was Voltaire who said, “Judge a man not by his answers but by his questions.” A student who hungers to know more about the world does not need to be pushed to learn because there is already an internal momentum at work building his or her knowledge base.
This belief in the power of questioning also resides with our Board of Trustees. We come from varied backgrounds in finance, law, business, medicine and other disciplines, but our most powerful work is accomplished by asking the right questions of the school’s leadership team. After this
year’s fantastic International Baccalaureate (IB) results, how can we improve student performance further? Can we reduce costs without sacrificing quality? How do we balance stability with innovation? Are our security standards meeting present demands? Do we compare favorably with other leading international schools? What have we heard on this subject from students, parents and faculty?
Creating an atmosphere at home and school where questions are encouraged
and celebrated is central to successful learning.
A commitment to asking a multitude of questions does not suggest a belief in “change for change’s sake.” At our last Board meeting we discussed the challenge of not chasing “educational fads” but instead thoroughly questioning current research before departing from practices that have withstood the test of time. Questioning the status quo does not necessarily mean we are dissatisfied with our present course, but it is a necessary process we must go through to be assured we are on a chosen path rather one that occurs by default.
This systematic approach applies to the FIS Policy Committee, which has a regular review cycle of the hundreds of policies and regulations that guide our school. Some policies have been reviewed multiple times but have not changed in decades. Others are changed each time they are
reconsidered, either because our expectations have changed, or the expectations the world places upon us have changed. But this process of applying a critical eye to these documents makes us a better school.
As community members, it is important for you to know that your Board of Trustees not only welcomes but actively seeks your questions. Our meetings are open to all who are interested and at the end of each meeting I am always grateful for questions from the guests who have joined us. You can also email directly if you believe there are issues we need to be discussing as a group. Please remember, those of us who are currently on the Board ran for office because we, too, had questions and believed we could help in the process of finding answers.
I suppose it would be appropriate for me to end this article with a question for you to share with your family around the dinner table: “If you were the FIS Chair of the Board of Trustees for a day, what would you do?”
Jonathan Clenshaw, Chair, Board of Trustees
February 2016 FIS World 3

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