Interview – Andrew Derry, new director of ISB school

Andrew Derry is decisive to cope with numerous challenges of the modern education system. He believes that schools cannot live in isolation but should rather reach out to the entrepreneur community in order to connect students with the real world.

At the beginning of the eighth decade of the ISB School, you are determined to make the it even more outstanding

The Board and I think we have a very good school, but we have an ambition to be the leading international school in the entire region of Central and Eastern Europe. We already have a strategic plan. Once you are good, you tend to think that you are good, and that’s the end of it – whereas to be great requires persistent dissatisfaction, you constantly work on your goals. Our teachers are our most important asset; actually, they are brilliant and seventy percent of them have an international experience. The second point is being very clear in the vision of what learning is all about.

You have mentioned that the so-called VUCA world has a high impact upon education

The world itself is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The question is how you educate children for that. The global survey of the World Economic Forum states that 65% of children currently in Primary School will enter a job that does not yet exist. We are now using a lot of data, to monitor progress; we are turning to the development of a greater number of world language programs, creative arts, computer science, as well as entrepreneurial programs as one of the big elements. Schools cannot live in isolation. We’ve already been looking for partners in Belgrade, because we want to connect our children with real-world problems.

Andrew Derry and his “third culture” kids

Andrew Derry has recently joined The ISB School as its new director. He has worked in international education for almost three decades and in school leadership for exactly 22 years. Previously, Andrew has led schools in the USA, Zimbabwe, Hungary, France and Switzerland.  He and his wife, Anne-Marie, are proud parents of four children, who all see themselves as “third culture” kids and global citizens. For the whole family, the notion of home is the world.

You believe that the most important learning element is how to overcome failure

School has been considered as either right or wrong for many years, but it isn’t so in the real world. The real world is – when you fall, you get back up and try again. Real entrepreneurs keep trying, they get back up one more time than they fail. There are so many examples in history to support this statement. You fail and you learn, you fail and you learn… We have to teach our students how to be resilient, how to learn from failure, not to just get a job, but rather create it. Another important element is coaching students to think in terms of big concepts, which helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.

Students’ inborn ability isn’t something you take into consideration

I don’t believe in that. There are too many highly successful adults who were no good at ‘schooling’. We can only act upon creating a stimulating learning environment. Our job as educators is to focus on challenging our children and supporting them. You only fail when you stop trying. The outcome should be the establishment of a mindset that plays the most significant role in determining achievement and success. Apart from challenge and support, choice, autonomy and collaboration, help your students develop an intrinsic motivation for learning!

Photo: ISB