28 Jun 2012

The end of an era.

Every education system is different.  That of course is a given.  No-one does it “right” according to everyone else, but in truth, surely, no-one does it “wrong” either.  All countries produce intellectuals and individuals of all levels and all professions, so of course there has to actually be “something right” that everyone does…it is just different! Part of our adventure to this part of the world is to expose ourselves and our children to these differences, and to try to encourage tolerance, understanding and flexibility in all.

While we are living here in Jakarta, our children are attending the British International School. We chose the school on its great reputation and strong swimming training programme.  It also seemed to be the most “similar” school to what the children were used to at home, in an attempt to try to keep the upheavals to a minimum, yet try something different.  
There are so many differences - some anticipated, some not!! The whole school year is different to Australia.  I hadn’t bargained on that.  Duh!! Our schools in Australia follow the standard calendar year with school beginning in January or early February, and finish at the end of the year in early December.  Our lovely long summer break of course coincides with the (Christian) celebration of Christmas, which we can all relax and savour slowly, and then, of course, the changing of the New Year.  Not so here.  Summer in the Northern Hemisphere of course is in the middle of the year, and the long “summer break” at this school is the same timing – so yes it makes perfect sense…but it just feels all wrong! Finishing the school year in June…well, that’s just “so out of whack” too to this Australian!!

Back home, primary school goes from Pre-School (or “Prep” as it is now known) up until Grade 7. High School is then Grade 8 to 12.  Kindergarten or Pre-Prep is an option that a good proportion of families choose to partake in too, and this year, as the name suggests is the year before Pre-School. Recent changes are afoot at home (Queensland) with High School to soon start from Grade 7 and the development of a “Middle School” concept also under way. None of this had actually been implemented when we left home, and our eldest daughter was going to just miss out on the new format. Our second daughter would have schooled under the new changes – so I was prepared for that, and knew I had a few years “up my sleeve”.  When it came to our eldest though, my mind was still in the “old fashioned” school model mode! Here they start at Foundation Stage 1 (Pre-Prep), FS 2 (Prep) then grade 1 through to Grade 13!!  

Starting a new school here then, my mind just again (you think I’d learn!) automatically applied the same “old fashioned” thoughts to this new school, and I just assumed that the same structure would apply here.  Wrong again!!! It hasn’t been until the last couple of weeks, as we have started to have orientation for high school and “swap days” where the children spend a couple of days in High School that it has really started to sink in that our eldest is in fact, really and truly, off to high school next year! (Cue the “now I feel old comments and thoughts loudly in my head”!)

I know it is really no different to just going up another year level at school…of course that was going to happen any way, but there is just “something” a bit more “heavy duty” about “going to High School”.  The uniform changes.  There are the connotations of the need for more “seriousness” about the education and the associated processes - the "buckling down".  There’s the importance of the student “succeeding” which then of course will reflect intensely on their future career choices, and these options of course have forever life changing impacts – for both student and parents.  The higher expectations from the children and of course the increased maturity of both my daughter and (more worryingly) the other students she will be able to mix with.  Her peers will now of course range in age up to 17 or 18…a whole new ball game with interests and habits and what they have access to! Eeeek!!  My “baby” is entering the “lion's pit” in many ways! (Big breaths, big breaths…)

The other night was the Grade 6 graduation party.  (Even that sounds wrong! To me…you don’t graduate in Grade 6!!)  Both parents and students attended.  The party really was incredibly well organized and a huge amount of thought was obviously put into it by the parent/s who organized it.  It was at a restaurant function room.  The decorations and ambience were perfect…nothing too over the top…just enough.  There were plain helium balloons, great lighting, great music with a DJ playing, a photo booth, huge lolly bowls, and even purpose made wall huge hangings declaring the “Class of 2012”.  There was a (soft) drinks bar where parents could also order a harder drink if they chose, and a simple but really good quality and beautiful tasting hot buffet for dinner.  There was even a graduation cake! There were a couple of simple games for the graduants, a few speeches, many “thank yous” then lots of dancing! Even the parents got into the dancing! An age-old favourite conga-line emerged, individuals shone, people sang loudly out loud and to themselves, got lost in the music and people just got down, boogied and had a lot of fun!  It really was a hoot!

I acquired a whole different view of my daughter at this event too.  She is normally such a serious soul, and is usually very guarded with me for some reason…not ever really keen to share her real thoughts or have a chat, or just relax with me sadly. (Teenagers...) But, on this night she really let her hair down – and I sat and just watched her and her friends in awe.  It was just so lovely to see her mixing with her friends, she relaxed and danced a lot, and she seemed to be just so accepted and respected by her friends and peers, and she seemed so totally comfortable with her friends of only a few months, and they with her. To me that just spoke volumes, about, not only my daughter’s incredible self-confidence, amazing resilience and ability to adapt to new environments, but also as a testament to her friends that she has chosen, that they obviously have the very same qualities. 

I know there will be further struggles and issues (oh, there will be some doozies for sure…don’t you worry!!), but this night just really reassured me that we as parents, have obviously managed to instill some very desired qualities in our very capable daughter, and that she is using them very wisely indeed!

Bring on High school – she (we) will tackle the “lion pit” head on and very well armed!


  1. Wait for it Michelle! I've got stories that would make your hair curl. Actually forget that! My hairs not curling at all, it's turning white!!!

  2. Teenagers have issues wherever they are. Being a teenager is all about heightened emotions, I know I have two daughters who have turned out to be wonderful young women, and I am extremely proud of them. Your daughter would be the same person wherever you were, only difference is she has the"you took me away from all my friends" to throw at you on a bad day,lol. I believe living in another country is a wonderful education which promotes tolerance and make children realise everyone is not the same. A great quality to have in life.

  3. Great blog Michelle... rings so true for me too!! I am just not wholly prepared for the mix of all those older children, i think thats what scares me the most! Our BIS has meant that Millie has grown up and awful lot this last few months, more mature, more independent.. not been an easy ride as I am sure you would agree at times but I am very happy that our girls get to grow and mature into wonderful young ladies as they are challenged by new experiences, cultures and people ! :)

  4. We can but hope they turn out OK, and be safe...and happy in whatever they pursue. That is all really. xx