Friday, January 22, 2010

Missions and Values

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation about the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement. I think the conclusion we came to was that a mission statement is something we are doing now, therefore is written in the present tense, whereas a vision statement is something we aspire to become, therefore is written in the future tense.

Having just moved to Switzerland from Thailand I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the mission statements of my two schools and see how they are similar and different. In my first year at my old school, the New International School of Thailand (NIST), we underwent a process of strategic planning. Almost the whole staff was involved in one way or another, and one of the groups came up with the Core Values - this was something the whole group had to reach consensus on therefore there were a lot of hard conversations before this list was finally drawn up:
Embracing diversity strengthens the individual and community.
Individuals have the right to choose and are responsible for the consequences of their choices.
All learning enriches life.
The pursuit of excellence is worth the effort.
Understanding deepens when meaningful connections are made.
People thrive in a safe, clean and caring environment.
As I was working in an international school, I very much appreciated and supported the first of these. I have been in other schools that talked about respecting diversity and international understanding but this was the first time I had seen a statement that celebrated the fact that diversity made us better people. I also loved the statement about the pursuit of excellence being worth it - actually I used to say this to my son many times when he was struggling through the IB.

NIST had a mission statement too - it was displayed all around the buildings in very large letters so that if you were outside playing and looked up, you couldn't fail to see it. Here is the mission:
to inspire and empower each student to pursue individual excellence and to enrich the world
Again there is the focus on individual excellence but here it goes further to show the purpose of striving for that is to enrich the world. I absolutely love this mission statement as to me it shows the whole purpose of international education in an IB World School. I feel the school did celebrate excellence - in academics, in the sports teams and in the amazing Arts programme.

How about the mission of my current school? Well the mission statement (more of a slogan really) is Respect, Motivate, Achieve:
ISZL promotes a climate of respect, where outstanding teachers encourage students to develop self confidence, positive relationships, and an enthusiastic approach to learning.
ISZL is committed to excellence in education through a balanced academic programme.
Students at ISZL share responsibility for their own learning in a caring and stimulating environment designed to promote achievement.
Respect is an important word in this statement. I believe this statement was newly written last year as a result of the three schools that form ISZL merging. Apparently this was the word mentioned by all sections of the school community: students, teachers and parents when questioned about what should be in a mission statement. I think the general feeling was that if there was no respect there would be no motivation and therefore no achievement - all very true.

Both schools inspire, empower or encourage students to excellence and both stress that students are responsible for their actions: their learning and their choices. The difference between the two is that the ISZL mission seems to stop with the student - achievement and excellence seem to be an end in themselves, whereas the NIST mission statement goes on to talk about enriching the world. I remember the discussions we had about that simple word "the". Should it be the world, or should it be their world or even their worlds? Could these students really influence the world? Isn't it more realistic to talk about them enriching their world - the people they meet, the communities they live in. At the end of the day we went with the world - maybe we did have some future world leaders there and if they could go on to enrich the world, so much the better.

Photo Credit: Peace by Cayusa

1 comment:

  1. "to inspire and empower each student to pursue individual excellence and to enrich the world", what a statement. I love that mission statement. It sums up the whole of education succinctly. I love how the statement doesn't just include the lofty goal of excellence for the individual student, but expands to enriching the rest of the world with that excellence.

    Maggie, I am having such fun reading your blog! You inspire me, make me laugh, and cause me to think. Thank you!