Many in Jakarta have romanticised the idea of living in Bali, but perhaps fear that ‘island life’ may not have the institutions one needs in the big city: for families, children’s education is certainly a main factor in the decision. As one of the premier international schools on the island, Bali Island School (BIS) offers a top-level education, especially as an IB World School, but with a uniquely Bali atmosphere and family approach.
NOW! Jakarta speaks to BIS’ Head of School, Mike Miller, who shares his impressions of the school and what makes it unique in his eyes; also, as a new ‘resident’ of the island, shares his own experiences of relocating to Bali.
Mike, many will pick up your accent, tell us a little bit about where you are from.
I’m from Scotland in the UK. Having been on the international road for nearly 20 years, my accent has actually somewhat softened over the years! After leaving Scotland, I moved around Europe and Asia before arriving in Bali. This really has allowed me to embrace other cultures and become more internationally-minded and understanding of others beliefs and their cultural nuances.
What was education like for you growing up?
Education was very different when I was growing up. The curriculum was taught in a way that was teacher-centred in that students just sat there, absorbed information and content and then regurgitated it for exams. Our exposure to skills acquisition or problem solving was very limited and the focus was on content knowledge. This is the polar opposite of what education is like today in modern student-centred schools. The focus is on skills acquisition and problem solving, along with content knowledge, many times taught through a conceptual lens.
Where were you posted prior to Bali?
Immediately before arriving in Bali, my wife (who is Vietnamese) and I, were in Vietnam for 5 years. However, prior to that, we were also in China for 3 years and I was in Spain for 9 years. It’s been a wonderful journey and the experiences we have encountered on this journey have allowed us to adapt and embrace Balinese and Indonesian culture very easily.
You joined Bali Island School in 2022, which has been an institution for three decades. What was your immediate impression of the long-established ‘community’ at BIS?
The community at BIS is its strongest attribute. The parent community is extremely supportive and everybody knows and treats each other like a family. Covid-19 had a massive impact on our community spirit, however, since the start of this academic year, we have reinstated and added further events to our calendar that will help us rekindle that community spirit. This spirit is what sets aside BIS from other schools. Our students are from all over the world and they bring unique and diverse perspectives that contribute to our community spirit.
Now that you’ve fully rooted yourself on the island, what would you say is the most valuable aspect about schooling children in Bali, compared to say, a city?
Bali is a truly majestic island, very diverse, rich in culture, art and history, and above all, safe. Due to the fact that there are a huge number of sports and activities on offer, this really makes it an idyllic place to raise children. Children raised in Bali, and studied at BIS, are exposed to a very cultured and diverse lifestyle and have the opportunity to grow and develop in a very clean and safe environment. On top of this, because of its location, students are engaged in a large variety of outdoors experiential activities to enhance the taught curriculum.
BIS is a fully IB school, in what ways do you think IB is an improvement over other curricula?
International Baccalaureate (IB) is somewhat unique in that IB philosophy focuses on a holistic approach in all three programmes to education that goes beyond just pure academics. By this, for example, I mean that there is an emphasis on service to the community and leading a healthy balanced life when it comes to a school/out of school life. Additionally, in the Diploma Programme (DP), there exists a component called the “Core”. Core is composed of an Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity and Service. These three additional components of high school education are widely regarded as being fundamentally important and significant in preparing students for university life. There is a large amount of data and research that proves that DP students are better prepared for the rigours of university life than non-DP students. We believe that our students are exceptionally well prepared for university.
What are the goals of BIS when it comes to (a) the student experience and (b) outcomes of schooling?
Our primary goal is that students must first feel safe, respected, protected and valued. After that, our focus is on making students realise their full potential in terms of achievement, both academically, physically, and socially and emotionally. We have a definition of high quality learning that our faculty strive to deliver in all classes and this is juxtaposed with our guiding statements and core values. Our aim is to deliver engaging and rigorous learning that encourages independence and prepares students for the 21st century.
We desire our students to be well-rounded, knowledgeable, global citizens that put the needs of others before their own and who are open-minded, tolerant and who can give back to the community and be effective leaders. Our alumni students are ambassadors for our school, and it is important that they understand that their behaviour and outlook is reflective of our values.
Having moved to Bali, what have you enjoyed particularly about island life that you haven’t had anywhere else — and what would you say to those ‘on the fence’ about making the move?
There are so many things that I enjoy about life in Bali. However, in particular, the evening cycles along the beach cycle pathway that culminate in lying or sitting down at the beach to gaze at the stars through a cloudless sky must rank as my favourite! The clean air, safety and range of international foods are also massive contributors to a wonderful life here. For those ‘on the fence’, my advice would be to take a risk, make the move, and let Bali immerse you in a whirlpool of smells, sensations, culinary delights, activities and experiences that will change your life forever! There are not many places in the world where you could be ascending a volcano in the morning, descending through lush rice fields in the afternoon, hanging out drinking tasty Balinese coffee late afternoon at a funky cafe, and then finish the day by having wonderful fresh seafood food right on the beach.
You’ve certainly sold the dream – you may have yet convinced someone to take the leap! Thank you for your time.
Head to baliislandschool.com to find out more.