Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Bhutan to Bosnia: Life in a 'Nomadic' Boarding School

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Bhutan to Bosnia: Life in a 'Nomadic' Boarding School

Article excerpt

It's a model of education to 'aspire' to, Richard Branson says

Archery in Bhutan, snowshoeing in Sweden, discussing politics with Noam Chomsky and visiting a camel fair in India - this is just an average year at the world's first "nomadic boarding school".

Students who want to learn about the world at first hand and experience different cultures all year round need look no further than the Think Global School (TGS), which offers teenagers the chance to tour the globe as part of their education. The only downside is the fees of £52,000 a year.

The school is the brainchild of Joann McPike, a photographer and former professional blackjack player. She established TGS because she wanted her own child's education to be informed by real-life experiences.

"It's like the Victorian period, where you travelled through Europe as your education and when you wanted to learn about art history you went to Italy," Ms McPike tells TES. "That's pretty much what it is."

The school, which is in its sixth year, has been enthusiastically endorsed by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson (pictured, inset), who recently called for every 16-year-old to be given a gap year to travel the world.

Cultural capital

TGS students live and study with their teachers in three different countries a year. They attend the school for three years, experiencing "a minimum of nine different cultures, nine different ways of thinking, nine different ways of seeing the world", Ms McPike says.

Last year, students travelled to New Zealand, Costa Rica and Greece. This year, they will spend time in Sweden before heading to Bosnia and Herzegovina and then Italy.

"I told the children at the very beginning: 'You are an educational and social experiment. I don't know if you're going to come out as the most well-adjusted young adults or you're all going to need psychiatrists'," Ms McPike recalls. "We have had two graduating classes and they are the most spectacular kids."

The school caters for 15- to 18-year-olds and currently has 48 students from 23 different countries, all following the International Baccalaureate. "But we augment that curriculum with the history, the culture, food, sport, whatever makes that society special," Ms McPike says.

Students are accompanied by their teachers and by staff who look after the travel and accommodation arrangements. The group sometimes live in a hotel or stay at a boarding school in the host country. Classrooms can involve traditional desks and blackboards or hot-desking in a city office.

"We don't just take them to easy, pretty places," Ms McPike says. …

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