David Horner, Athletics and Activities Director at The International School of Belgrade, ISB

Great Practice For Future Life

The After School Activities (ASA) Programme at ISB supports students by developing their time management and prioritisation skills. Students need to learn how to juggle a variety of different tasks and commitments, as an essential life skill

The variety of extracurricular programmes offered by ISB allows students to focus on areas that are close to them and in which they want to improve. There is equally great attention paid to all programmes, from sports to arts and sciences, but also the acquiring of specific skills.

How interested are children today when it comes to extracurricular activities?

The International School of Belgrade (ISB) understands the need for each child to be engaged in a holistic style of education. The International Baccalaureate programme, which is used across the school, states “An IB education is holistic in nature—it is concerned with the whole person. Along with cognitive development, IB programmes address students’ social, emotional and physical well-being.”

The extracurricular or after school activities (ASA) programme at ISB is an extension of the IB classroom and students are engaged in learning that is specific to their area of interest.
The International School of Belgrade boasts a phenomenal participation rate in the activities offered to the students.

We can take pride in our very high percentage of student responses because we have two-way communication. The school ensures that it offers programmes that will interest pupils, but not only so that they will attend in large numbers, rather also that they will enjoy those moments.

The school offers the right activities and the students attend because they enjoy the programmes. These types of numbers are not common across the rest of the world. This is my fifth overseas school, spanning an 11-year career, on three continents, and these are the best participation statistics I have ever seen.

Are they left with enough time, and in which activities are they most interested?

There are many research articles that discuss the value of a quality ASA programme. The key findings support the idea that a good ASA programme has a positive influence on academic performance, work habits and behaviour.

There are many students at ISB who are involved in multiple activities throughout the week. These students will need to organise their daily equipment, inform adults of pick up/drop off times, complete their homework and come prepared for class each day. This is great practice for later life.

In which ways do you encourage their interest?

The diverse offerings which are available to students at ISB allow for focus in the areas that students find interesting. The variety of our programming includes three major sports: soccer, basketball and volleyball. There is also a focus on the arts, and students are active in dramatic performances, a rock band and a choir.

There are students that prefer a more academic theme to their activity, and in this aspect, we offer Knowledge Bowl, Speech and Debate and Math Counts. These activities each come with a possible travel opportunity, through our membership in the Central and Eastern European Schools Association.

Statistics taken from the 2015/16 school year show that ASA participation was above 90% for the majority of the year. There were even times during the year when 100% of the students were engaged in an ASA. These types of numbers are not common across the rest of the world, and these are the best participation figures I have ever seen

CEESA provides cultural events, where students can compete in their chosen area of expertise, whilst staying with a family from the hosting school and country. This provides our students with an excellent opportunity to make new friends, develop cultural awareness and experience events that will forge lifelong memories.

The ASA programme is further enhanced with an assortment of Non- CEESA activities, which include martial arts, chess, a technology club, Dragon’s Den newspaper, climbing, yoga, model making and services. The students in our Middle School are all expected to participate in one after-school service activity, which is organised by our Service Coordinator.

What can you conclude from the interest of children? Do you have the possibility of recognising special talents, singling them out and working with them in particular?

The philosophy of ISB is to include all students in all activities. Therefore, we accept every student that wants to be part of any team throughout the year. 

The purpose of these activities is to provide an extension from the school day; therefore teaching and learning should be at the forefront of every activity we offer. The Non-CEESA activities provide students with a learning environment, without a competitive flavour, which many of our students really enjoy and participation has been high.

The activities which have a CEESA component do provide opportunities for students to engage in competition. The teams are selected from a larger squad of participants, due to regulations placed upon us by CEESA, but we still maintain an inclusive philosophy and those students that are not selected are just as valuable as those that are. The activity sponsors do a great job of making sure each student feels part of the team, and is actively engaged throughout each of the sessions. There is time spent each week in the activities update praising individual accomplishments by students and these are highlighted in our Dragon Dispatch newsletter and Awards ceremony.

The students really enjoy seeing their teachers outside of the classroom and that is why we strive to provide teacher driven sponsorship of each after school offering

How important is it to get involved in sport and other activities, and are children and parents sufficiently aware of that?

The message at ISB is that we are a community of learners. This community is strengthened through student, parent and teacher involvement. The lesson learned during an ASA may be quite different from those that are taught in an authentic classroom, though they are just as powerful and long-lasting.

The students involved in the after school programme are learning about the importance of long-term commitment. Once they are registered for an activity, they know they have made a commitment to that activity sponsor, those fellow participants and themselves. Students know that they will be positive contributors to that programme. They also feel like they are contributing to the greater good, and developing a sense of school culture and spirit, which helps with attitudes towards school and learning.

Are you satisfied with your cooperation with other schools and the extent to which they get involved in joint activities?

The one downside to having travelled and worked in overseas schools in Shanghai, Guatemala City, Kuwait City and Manama for the past 11 years is that I have seen what an excellent city-wide activities conference can do for a school and for the city. I would love to see greater connections between the international schools, so that we could engage in competitive activities across the city. This would provide excellent, age appropriate practice for our students that are interested in taking the jump to the next step and representing ISB at a CEESA tournament during the year.

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