Dreaming of University Success?

by Karen Prout

Having your children go to an elite university is the dream of many parents. It is also the dream of many students. But, how to make this dream a reality?

Karen Prout, Head of Sixth Form at Harrow International School Bangkok, talks frankly about the qualities universities are looking for and how Harrow Bangkok prepares students for success. When it comes to universities, many students, in particular those studying the British curriculum, aspire to universities that are part of the Russell Group. The Russell Group is a collection of 24 leading world-class UK universities; those universities that carry out the best research, provide outstanding teaching and learning and have unrivalled links with the business and public sectors.

This year 47 Harrow International School Bangkok students – 42% of the Class of 2018 – graduated to Russell Group universities including Oxford and Cambridge. Globally, 41% went on to the world’s top 100 universities; two students secured places at Ivy League institutions. Harrow Bangkok students sit the majority of their GCSEs and A Levels with Cambridge Assessment International Education. Cambridge exams are taken in over 150 countries and in more than 4,700 schools around the world. Every year Cambridge acknowledge students who have performed particularly well through their Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards programme.

This year, HarrowBangkok student’s celebrated their best ever success. Three students received Best in the World awards, seven were Top in Thailand and ten took High Achievement awards for outstanding results in their subject. More generally, at GCSE level this year, 317 A* grades were awarded, with an average three year school trend of students achieving 63% A-A*s. At A Level, 60%of all exams taken were graded A*-A, 93% A*-C.

According to Durham University’s Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring, Harrow Bangkok is in the top 6% of A Level schools worldwide. So, Harrow Bangkok students excel academically and go to leading universities, but how does Harrow Bangkok make this happen? Karen Prout explains. Securing a place at a highly competitive university requires a great deal more than just good academic grades. Naturally, a strong academic profile is important as it demonstrates to a university that the student is able to cope with the academic demands of undergraduate study.

But it is the wider set of transferable skills, developed from a young age, that are equally crucial to thriving in an academically challenging environment. At Harrow Bangkok, students are encouraged to love learning, to question and problem solve, inside and outside of the classroom. These skills are embedded in our ‘Leadership in Action’ extracurricular programme, where we inspire our students to make a real difference in their community, applying the theoretical knowledge they have learned in subject lessons to real-life situations. For example, there are a number of studentled initiatives at Harrow Bangkok where students identify a social issue, work together to raise funds and then run the project for the community in need.

Ultimately there is no magic formula to securing a place at Oxbridge, Russell Group, Ivy League and highly competitive universities, despite what some people might tell you. However, if you foster a genuine love of learning and a well-rounded character through extracurricular involvement you are on the right path to success.

A key part of these projects is giving our students the opportunity to consider the challenges of inequality in society and how we as individuals can affect positive change in the world. Reading and studying beyond the curriculum is also vital. I often recommend books, TED Talks or news stories; I also encourage students to talk about global events, issues and challenges with their parents over the dinner table. Debate, listening to others and developing informed opinions are all incredibly valuable learning opportunities. Many of my students share articles they have read with me and ongoing dialogues continue over time, stimulating interesting discussions and exchange of ideas.

We introduced the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) into the Sixth Form curriculum at Harrow Bangkok to encourage our students to explore their passions, to become independent researchers and learners. Students are assigned their own academic mentor to consult through the process and often this mentorship will naturally continue through the university application process. Feedback from our alumni at university has been extremely positive with comments such as: “the EPQ was the best preparation for university”.

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