Here are some of the comments from different experts who have experienced and studied our approach. They range from Heads of Department, to University Lecturers, to University Deans, to Primary school teachers.
- Tsiba Univeristy: Leigh Meinert, Managing Director of Tsiba University on what universities are looking for in entrance requirements.
- Wits University: Richard Thompson: University lecturer at the Graduate School of Business
- Independent Curriculum Moderator.Comments from an Independent National Curriculum moderator on assessing the SynEDGy Approach and Curriculum.
- Traditional School Teacher: Gilly Southwood was a traditional school teacher for over 18years.
- Rhodes University: Professor Chrissie Boughey D.Phil, MA, MA, PGCE.Dean, Teaching & Learning, Rhodes University.
- Montessori mentor and teacher trainer: Sharon Caldwell.
- Senior Phase teacher: Hebert Mbiba
Leigh Meinert, Managing Director of Tsiba University on what universities are looking for in entrance requirements.
Synergy School’s holistic approach to education is preparing exactly the kind of individual that we are looking for in our business school and that employers are looking for in the market place. More importantly though, learners at Synergy learn how to lead their own lives. They are not being educated to fit in but to think for themselves, to employ the values they have learnt and to be guided by a sensitivity for those around them. They will be the entrepreneurs and the way showers in the future and we need many many more of these.The Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSiBA) believes that the 21th century requires new ways of working and hence new ways of educating. To date we have received over R50 million in funding from corporate sponsors who endorse this view and we have graduated students, including a Mandela Rhodes scholar, who have gone on to shine in the workplace and further studies.
Our unique ‘Profile of Graduateness Model’ focuses on developing Knowledge, Skills and Attitude with the most important of these – Attitude – our focal point. We’ve written our own degree with Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Self Development as the majors as it is our experience that creativity and emotional intelligence are increasingly regarded as the cornerstones of success in the modern economy. Our model encourages young people to develop self awareness and effectiveness, to discover their talents and pursue their passions.
In selecting students for entrance into TSiBA matric grades play a relatively minor role. We utilise the same apptitude test in essential Maths and English Literacy that UCT and many other universities employ and most importantly we interview to assess self motivation and leadership potential. We are looking for young people with “spark in the eye”, who display confidence in themselves and an awareness of their context.
Richard Thompson: University lecturer at the Graduate School of Business at Wits University
As a university lecturer at the Graduate School of Business at Wits University, and at Thunderbird: The Graduate School of International Management French-Geneva campus in Europe I have over 20 years as a university lecturer. I have extensive experience of what makes an excellent academic learner and ultimately, a successful graduate.
From my extensive research and experience of the Synergy School Philosophy, the children are enabled to develop their academic intelligence based on powerful social and emotional competence. This encompasses their self-awareness including their self esteem and self confidence; self-management which includes initiative, adaptability, achievement orientation, trustworthiness; social awareness including empathy and relationship management which includes influence, communication, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration.
A ‘Synergy School’ foundation will enable our children to flourish in all aspects of their schooling, as well make them extremely well positioned to assume leadership roles, to be accepted into and integrated into college or university life and thoroughly well prepared to be highly effective in the world of work.
The development of social and emotional competence is essential for their academic development, now and in the future. Further, extensive research into the impact of social and emotional competence reveals that it is a fundamental determinant of future success in any environment, organisation or situation. This is due to the increasing need to work with, and through, people and is absolutely critical for any person to be effective in any position of leadership. These are things that we at the university level also wish to inculcate in our graduates (and if this can happen at a school level, then that is incredibly powerful).
Comments from an Independent National Curriculum moderator on assessing the Synergy Approach and Curriculum.
“This is the best example I have seen in all of South Africa over the last 20 years of how our National Curriculum should be implemented”. This was the comment after an Independent Examinations Board Curriculum Moderator worked with the Senior Phase teacher at Synergy School for an intensive period of over 7 weeks. It is the Moderators job to go into schools and support teachers in the understanding and development of the South African National Curriculum and to ensure that quality is being implemented.
This is a fantastic recognition of the Synergy Schooling Approach after all their hard work in showing how education can be more dynamic and meaningful than most schools believe. “And the most amazing thing about this is that although we are not implementing the National Curriculum as our primary goal, we are still achieving more than what they set out to achieve,” says Robin Booth, the founder of the Synergy Schooling Approach. “That we still achieve it, and with such fantastic results, goes to show that the Synergy Approach really works. So for all the parents and teachers who may still not be sure about what we are doing, here it is from the real experts, “This is the best example this moderator has seen over all of South Africa!”
Gilly Southwood was a traditional school teacher for over 18years.
Gilly was headhunted by Reddam House when they first opened in Cape Town. She came in to review the work done by the Synergy Children and the way in which the SynEDgy Schooling Approach links to the National Curriculum that normal schools follow.
“After having paged through learners’ workbooks, reading written work on walls, deciphering mindmaps, perusing workcards, hearing about exploratory and investigative approaches to creative writing and project work and in areas of Literacy and Numeracy…all a testimony to the focused multisensory, multi dimensional approach to learning which is evident in this Gr 1 and 2 classroom…the recorded work the very kind you would find in any “traditional classrooms’.
The teacher has carefully, creatively and sensitively set about linking this approach to the National Curriculum, in great detail. This is particularly evident in the Numeracy and Literacy Learning Areas. The extensive “Synergy Skills and competencies” link readily with Life Orientation and Synergy does this at a greater depth it appears.
It was most exciting for me that as a “traditional teacher”, having taught for 18 years, I was able to resonate very strongly with the philosophy of Synergy School…. “principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum”. At the same time, after in depth questions with the teacher as to how she continuous evaluating the children’s progress, I have the reassurance and satisfaction of knowing that the systems are closely linked to the Outcomes the National Curriculum.
Professor Chrissie Boughey D.Phil, MA, MA, PGCE.Dean, Teaching & Learning, Rhodes University.
A University Professor talks about how a school like Synergy will prepare a learner for entrance and success at university more than a learner who is successful from a traditional school.
Many students arrive at university without having the faintest clue that this is the sort of academic work required of them as their experience at school has been one where the focus was on reproduction of existing knowledge rather than on the construction of new knowledge (and, as I argue above, even a first year assignment is about knowledge construction).
From my own research background, I would argue that the ability to construct new knowledge in the way I have outlined above is dependent as much as on a disposition to work with uncertainty, on a willingness to be assertive and to defend a position and so on than on other more traditionally acknowledged factors related to so called 'intellectual' ability.
The students who do well at university are the ones who also have a high degree of self awareness and character development. They are the ones who achieve a measure of independence pretty quickly and who are confident and assertive enough to speak up in tutorials and in classes in order to try out knowledge claims. Students who do well also have the confidence to knock on their lecturers' doors to ask a question, talk and so on.
It's not like at school where the teachers get to know you and are willing to nurture and foster development - here a student has to make herself known to the lecturer by speaking up. Academics will usually reward a 'faulty' argument more highly than no argument - what counts is that someone has attempted to build a position for herself rather than simply restate stuff in a sort of collage of summarised passages from the literature.
What students also need is the ability to manage their own time and withstand peer pressure ('No, I'm not going out partying tonight because I need to do some reading"). They also need to be sufficiently self aware to know what works for them and what doesn't and not simply follow the crowd. At universities, we see lots of learners who were high achievers at school but flounder every year at University.
At a traditional school, a different sort of learning (reproductive rather than constructive) has been required of them and they have also been monitored in their learning every step of the way by parents and teachers. This is not good preparation for university.
I'm not saying anything controversial here - I'm pretty sure you could show what I have written to a selection of academics from right across disciplinary spectrum and they would agree with me. A school like Synergy School will definitely support learners for success at university and in life.
Sharon Caldwell. Montessori mentor and teacher trainer. An avid supporter of the Synergy Schooling Approach even though in her terms we are still too tame.
She has consulted and conducted teacher training as far afield as Beijing and Daker as well as locally. She mentors Montessori school leaders in her role as guide on two online Leadership training programs for the Montessori Foundation. Sharon has also presented at conferences in India, the USA, Australia and in South Africa.
“But if you want the goal of education of your child to be something special - Education of the Human Potential - Education for a New World - then regular school is the path heading off in the wrong direction. If you are wanting an education which nurtures the individual spirit of each child as a unique human being unlike anyone else who has, or who will ever live [you need an education that is different to what we have become accustomed to.]
If you want an education based on your child’s potential rather on her weaknesses, an education based on what your child wants in her life, what makes her excited, what makes her feel complete, then look for alternative that provides for this. If you want an education which sees richness in diversity rather than seeking the safety of conformity, then doing what everyone else does will not meet this objective.”
Hebert Mbiba: qualified Senior Phase teacher
With all my experience in the traditional schooling system I have observed that the public school only attempts to do a very limited extent of what Synergy offers. Among other unique characteristics, these stand out clearly for me:
• Treatment of children as individuals as compared to the group. Why should children be treated as groups when they have their individual needs and unique personalities?
• Promotion of learner autonomy and independence where there is room for free exploration of a child’s potential.
• Parental involvement is positively utilised and promotes learning. Parents as important stakeholders who are actively involved in the daily learning of their children.
• Daily journals and weekly mails that keep parents connected to the daily activities of the school
What more should I say? I have chosen not remain enclosed in my cocoon when things are happening in education, new frontiers are being forged ahead, new horizons are being launched and new paradigms are being explored? In my opinion Synergy is closer in achieving the goal of providing quality education that is useful today and sustainable in the future.