Garth Wyncoll tells Indonesia Expat about his background, his vision for Bali Island School and his success in the education world.
Hi Garth, greetings from Jakarta. Tell us about yourself and where you come from.
My name is Garth Wyncoll, originally from Toronto, Canada. I’ve been teaching for 30 years now and have taught in the USA, Philippines, Nigeria, Ecuador, and now in beautiful Bali, Indonesia.
This is your first role as a principal in Indonesia. What are your thoughts about the country?
I love living in Indonesia. We’ve already travelled to some beautiful places in Bali and we are looking forward to visiting many more interesting parts of Indonesia. Bali is a very special place! In many ways, Bali is a beautiful meeting point of cultures, in which people are open-minded, caring and appreciative of different perspectives. I also love the food – nasi campur – I can’t get enough.
What are your plans for the Bali Island School (BIS)?
Bali Island School is an established International Baccalaureate (IB) world-school. Our students experience the IB ethos from preschool to Grade 12. Our students earn great results in the IB Diploma (DP) program and are accepted to universities around the world each year. Our community values the importance of developing global perspectives, serving others, and leading an engaged and useful life. Because BIS is a highly functioning school, my plan for it is to look for small improvements and further refine our programs whilst working towards fulfilling our strategic plan.
Please tell us something about Bali Island School. What is your top priority for Bali Island School? How is Bali Island School adapting its offering to the needs of modern students?
At BIS we strive to prepare our students for a future that, in many ways, is unknown. What we do know is that creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills will be invaluable tools for the next generation. The BIS Board has developed a strategic plan that will enable the school to continue to prepare our students, and future students, to be engaged, globally minded, confident learners. Bali Island School is developing our STEAM offering in which our students are challenged to apply their Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics learning into practice by creating solutions to real world problems.
I am excited to announce that the Board has also developed a scholarship program! The program aims to assist students who are academically talented and have leadership skills.
Why do you think Bali Island School appointed you as their Head of School?
I was appointed as Head of School to help move Bali Island School to the next level of excellence. There’s a saying that leaders stand on the shoulder of mentors. I have been lucky enough to have had a number of fabulous mentors throughout my career, on whom I routinely rely for guidance. BIS also has a strong network of educational leaders, who have been very helpful to the school throughout the years, and to me over the past few months. BIS is a founding member of the Indonesian IB Schools Association, of the Bali Island Heads of Schools Association and a member of the Java Association of Small Independent Schools.
What brings you here? You were High School Principal at Academia Cotopaxi in Ecuador before. How is Bali Island School adapting its offering to the needs of modern students?
I was a high school principal for ten years, most recently at Academia Cotopaxi in Ecuador. The Head of School position at BIS offered me an opportunity to further my career. When I visited the school during the interview process, it was love at first sight. Our campus is a unique mix of Balinese architecture and 21st century learning spaces, the program is rigorous and challenging, each member of the faculty is a certified teacher in his or her area of expertise, and BIS boasts a supportive and engaged community. BIS is inclusive, meeting students where they are, and challenging each child to learn through an individual learning plan.
How do you see Bali Island School compared to other international schools in Bali?
Parents are lucky living in Bali because there are so many choices and opportunities for their children to get a high-quality education. Bali Island School provides one of those choices. Our school serves internationally minded families living in Bali, who want a world-class education for their child. Interestingly, we are seeing a growing number of families move to Bali from congested South East Asian cities. Families are learning that the BIS program not only fits the education needs for their child, but that the community and fresh air of Bali is beneficial to the health of the entire family.
What are your thoughts on the homework debate?
At Bali Island School we believe that young children learn through playing and that time outside the school spent with family is integral to the social and emotional development of the child. Research suggests that reading with family members on a daily basis increases a student’s fluency, so we encourage this practice for all of our students. With our rigorous academic program, students eventually need to practise skills at home. The children at Bali Island School begin having assigned homework in Grades 5 and 6. At that point in a child’s life we are not only assessing the practice, but also the student’s approach to learning – his or her ability to be organised, complete tasks, and manage time.
What is the BIS policy on bullying?
While bullying has no place at any school, unfortunately, it does happen from time to time. The advantage of a small school is a low student to teacher ratio of 15:1, meaning that our teachers know the strengths of each child and his or her particular areas for growth. Our teachers also monitor the social and emotional learning of each student. Our Health and Physical Education program teaches explicit strategies to address negative behaviours amongst a year group and our Guidance Counsellor supports students individually and in small groups when issues arise. Students make mistakes, we all do, and our role is to ensure that each child feels loved and cared for, knows where to get help, and is confident to advocate for their own safety.
What is your strategy to attract parents to BIS over the other schools in Bali?
Our strategy at Bali Island School to attract new families consists of sharing our story. BIS has many wonderful stories to share. We have an amazing faculty chock-full of wonderful experiences from teaching at international schools around the world. Our IB program is established and successful. Our alumni are making positive differences in the world by continuing to help those in need and by being engaged citizens. I believe we appeal to parents who value the importance of developing a global perspective for their child, the transferability of an IB education, and the doors that swing wide open when applying to universities around the world with a BIS Diploma in hand.
What does an effective school look like in your opinion?
An effective school, at its heart, serves the needs of each individual child. An effective school provides an academic challenge through a differentiated learning program, taught by experienced educators, who are masters in their discipline. An effective school supports each student’s social and emotional growth and is able to provide leadership, service, and action opportunities outside the classroom. The Bali Island School is an effective school and I am proud to be a BIS Dragon.