Offering Students the Opportunity of Choice: Showcasing High School Pathways
With more than 20 years of experience as an international school leader, David Munro joined the American School of The Hague community as High School Principal in 2020. Guided by a strong vision to help shape students to be the best version of themselves, David shares how the ASH High School experience is designed to help prepare our students for the future. Drawing from the different programs offered in High School, he highlights the possible pathways students can take to achieve their goals.
“As the High School Principal, I help guide what's next in our program, evaluate or think about maintaining our traditions. Together with my colleagues, we try to create systems that support and maximize our students’ outcomes and lead them to the right places.”
Pathways: With Options, Come Opportunities
High School offers four programs: the International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), ASH courses, and High School Special Education (HSSE). Throughout their years of High School, students are guided through their decision-making process to prepare for life after ASH in several ways. Before students have a definite ambition for the future, they are encouraged to explore and consider their options and to embrace the opportunity to make their own pathways towards their goals.
In High School, when talking about pathways, we refer to the different ways and decisions students can take in school that will support their goals after their time at ASH - whether that is attending university locally or abroad, applying for a traineeship, or getting a job.
For students to build their pathways as closely to their goals as possible, the High School focuses on providing opportunities that invite students to see beyond traditional lenses, like social studies, math, or English.
“By offering choice and variety, students are encouraged to engage and see how things can work together differently through interdisciplinary lenses, what it means in the field, and how the school and teachers can support them to experience that. The opportunity of choice also helps students grow as themselves, and not into a mold.”
Range of Opportunities
In the last three years, many courses have been added to the High School course catalog to support our students’ desire to pursue a future in design and engineering; especially since Industrial Design is such a large and important domain in the Netherlands. For example, courses ranging from robotics, coding, product design, electronic systems, to game design have been included.
Besides experiences in the classroom, we offer hands-on experiences outside where students can explore interests in new contexts and broaden their perspectives of the world and themselves.These include field trips, The Hague International Model United Nations, Cooking for a Cause, performing at Disneyland Paris, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) trips.
The SDG trips are year-long extracurricular programs that allow students to partner directly with people, places, and organizations around the world and take collective action on one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In recent years, these trips have taken place in Nepal, Thailand, Portugal, Italy, and most recently in Belgium this year. Blending elements of Design Thinking, Project Based Learning, Social Emotional Learning, and Service Learning methodologies, students work throughout the year to co-create solutions for the needs and contexts of the communities and organizations they work with in each country.
David shared how a student’s preparation to a SDG trip to Thailand was a great example for how non-academic skills are equally as valuable as academic excellence: “The student explained: ‘We’re planning and designing ways to tackle the Affordable and Clean Energy SDG Goal, but will the skill to create relationships is actually the most important.’ This is such a valuable insight - because one can technically be good at something, but if they lack the ability to relate to others, compassion, or know how to work together, we fail to move forward.”
Positioned in Wassenaar, ASH is in the middle of such diverse and incredible organizations like the Red Cross, the European Space Agency and the Leiden Bio Science Park. There is a wealth of opportunities around the school that we want students to be able to envision themselves in.
Guiding Students
The more opportunities are given to students in Grades 9 and 10, the more they’re likely to refine what they want to do in Grades 11 and 12, which allows them to build a broad range of skills over time.
With the four pathways we offer in High School, this can be overwhelming for students. Our job is to untangle these feelings and help students create a path that makes sense for them. We help them design a path that may or may not blend classes from different diplomas; but all so that it helps them get to where they want to go.
Together with our counselors, we guide our students by showing them what an end goal can be, and the many ways (or paths) there are to get there. He says: “There are multiple ways of getting into a program in higher education - but by only thinking there’s one way to get there (ie. if the student only does IB or AP), then we’re narrowing that view.”
Our Career Panels and Career Mornings are good examples of how we offer students a panoramic view of what is possible once they graduate, and also serves as an encouragement for them to explore areas of interest that they may not have previously paid attention to. We invite parents and alumni to share their professional journeys.
A pathway has multiple endpoints and encourages students to be open to trying out new things. If there is a science-oriented student, it’s an invitation for them to try something from the humanities, or do a service project like SDG. They might have an engineering solution to provide or might change their outlook and want to study something related to law instead.
Becoming A Better Human
When talking about their applicants, universities share that they would rather have prospective students target their passions into a couple of activities, rather than many. Students that manage to take on less co-curricular activities but deeply pursue their interests, this student is able to align their educational goals, but also their human side.
In High School, we encourage students to also see the value of learning and education beyond scores and rankings. There are so many opportunities in the world that value applicants as humans and the valuable contributions they may make to society - if it is not in a student’s goal, why only look at options that only want high-test scoring applicants? A student may not even want to apply to university - they may want to look into a technical degree, a job they are valued in.
In other words, students are invited to balance their academic acumen. Perhaps if a student’s ambitions are to study medicine or law, then the academic requirements are indeed understandably and rightfully high. But what also matters is that our students are good people. David shared: “There's more to it than a number. There’s many ways to shape a high school program; we could certainly shape it so that we get perfect scores. But we choose open opportunities and redefine success. Being a good person cannot be measured with a number. A number will get you somewhere, that’s for sure, but the question we invite students to think about and take with them for their lives after High School is what kind of person they are, and who they want to become for themselves and others”.
The ASH High School experience continues to develop meticulously to prepare students for a successful future. Our various programs and pathways are designed for students to not only acquire knowledge, but also support and direct them to help explore, thrive, and achieve their goals. With David's leadership, American School of The Hague continues to expand on educational opportunities, nurturing students to excel and become the architects of their own success stories.