The Green School Bali was one of the top things of my list of things to do on our recent trip to Bali. Education was at the front of my mind as my daughter approached 1st Grade at her local village school in Ibiza. The thing that concerned me most is that education is just not preparing kids for careers or in fact life will that welcome them in 10 to 15 years’ time.
Amazing articles about our immediate future make me question what our children are going to be greeted by when they leave school and when you read that “Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain”
What about simple stuff like cars? “Autonomous cars: Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car.” you start to see that thanks to technology the world is rapidly changing.”
“Are Schools Killing Creativity” by Ken Robinson is the most-watched Ted Talk of time (link below), so I am assured that I am not alone in my concerns about the education system and if we as loving parents are preparing our children for this world of rapid change.
It is, in my option a really challenging time for parents to school children. The majority of mainstream education is not changing fast enough, you hear of key schools introducing mindfulness and yoga, you hear about a shift in some areas, counties like Finland and Iceland are making huge changes towards more free play and freer classrooms and the results are astounding.
As a parent when in Ibiza, my options were limited. For 5 -16 years old I could choose local education which for the most part is still quite old school by any standard. There is private education which is not much better. Homeschooling is illegal under the current government (and I was working full-time) and the legal Steiner school was a 40-minute drive from my house and I think it only goes to aged 9. The Universal Mandala stands out as a great progressive school but again only aged til 6 years old. Eventually we moved to the U.K to find alternative education.
Green School Dream
So with all this consistently floating around my head, I was keen to get a feel for The Green School Bali. The school has an impact the minute you arrive. Your first glimpse of the green school is a lush football field surrounded by incredible bamboo school buildings. It is like entering school heaven and my 5 year olds face lit up the moment we saw it, as did my own.
The Green School Bali offers a tour each school day from 9am til 10am, you need to book online. We were greeted by the Balinese staff who were incredibly smiley and welcoming as Balinese people always are, before meeting our guide for the morning who was a Scottish woman whose child has been at the school since she was 3 years old, a parent whose love and sense of community with the Green School shone out of her.
The tour of the school grounds is amazing and seems to be over in flash. There is so much to see and the school sprawls across a 20-acres of lush land and runs entirely on solar, micro-hydropower, and bio-diesel power. They have 440 full time students and a further 230 local Balinese students. The fees are slightly eye watering but the cost of living in Bali is very low so for those who can earn online whilst schooling their children at Green School it is very viable. Important to note the Balinese students do not pay to attend but have to bring 2kg of recycling at the beginning of each term instead.
Project Based Learning
The first project we were greeted by at the Green School Bali was the recycling station. Waste management is a huge, huge problem in Bali to the point that recycling is pretty much nonexistent so the school’s active interest in this area will be transformative to the island which has seen a 20% increase in tourism in the last year alone.
At the Green School Bali project based learning is key and the student’s projects seem to become the building and growth of the school. Let me try to explain. One group of students recognised that a key problem in Bali was that most Warungs (food outlets) reused their cooking fat, over and over again to the point the oil was carcinogenic. So the students decide that they would work with these Warungs to collect the used cooking oil and would find a way to effectively dispose of the oil. Another obvious problem was the number of cars that were dropping kids to the school. The students decided they wanted eco friendly solution to get to school and combining the cooking oils disposal problem, the BioBus was born using the used cooking oil to fuel the school bus.
The students learned a by product of the cooking oil recycling process is glycerine which they could make cleaning products from and so could give the resulting product back to the warungs in exchange for the used cooking oil. The soaps are sold in the Free School shop to help fund the project further.
As the tour continued we learn about many other projects, the juniors were tending chickens as we walked past (strictly no pictures of kids allowed and we are escorted by friendly Balinese security ) we hear how if students want something like for example these chickens they have to put together a business plan. Then go to the school bank to see if the school is willing to loan or invest in the project. In the case of the chickens, the project was approved and the eggs are sold in the farmer’s market to pay back the school treasury for their outlay for the purchase of the chickens. The students had to learn to make the coop and are responsible for the keep of the very healthy, plump looking, chickens.
For older kids the projects get more complicated for example the aquaponics garden where the water from the plants comes from the fish who fertilise the water. product where students have built a sustainable greenhouse.“The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. The third component of the system is the microbes (nitrifying bacteria) and composting red worms that thrive in the growing media. They do the job of converting the ammonia from the fish waste first into nitrites, then into nitrates and the solids into vermicompost that are food for the plants.” – I took that from the Green School Website as I could not begin to explain it myself – look at the roof the glass is in fact many windscreens from old cars.
But the students projects are not just local projects, they go global too. Forbes Magazine tell us about two students “Isabel Wijsen, 14, and Melati Wijsen, 16, are still in their teens but they have already founded a movement against plastic bags that is having a major impact in Bali, and now spreading around the world. Their initiative, called Bye Bye Plastic Bags, is attempting to stop the single use of plastic bags.” with a Ted Talk in hand these students are making waves.
Something for Everyone
As the tour continues you see the eco market, the cafe, the hot desk hub for parents who want to work from the campus, the mud pit for marshal arts, mud-wrestling, and the eco pool. It’s creativity at it’s best and much of it is created as result of project-based learning which has been valuable to the school it has remained a key part of the school.
So what about the education system? This is the part that excited me there is no one school of thought at the Green School Bali. The New York Times sum it up “the school has cherry-picked its curriculum — a dose of Australia here, some International Baccalaureate there, with a dash of Singapore Math for good measure — and stressed what she called “integrated thematics” across subjects; when learning about ancient Egypt, for example, students will explore its history, but they might also use the pyramids to study geometry. But what most distinguishes Green School from other expat-driven international schools found the world over is its strong connection to the local community and its emphasis on doing. “At most schools,” Medema said, “you learn about making a bridge in a book. At progressive schools, you maybe make it out of matchsticks or carve it out of soap. At Green School, you actually just go and make it.”
Then came our question, “but what about getting into university? I did not go to university and live a good life with a good business so not sure why I asked the question, but I loved the answer which was along the lines of “Students interest is driven by passion and purpose and they may not mean they need to go to university to take the role in life that inspires them and earns them a living. If they do feel the need to do to university then there is a university councilor, but getting kids ready for university is not the only goal of The Green School Bali it is to help them to find their purpose.”
At the time of our visit of the 67 graduates, 36 students choose to go to higher education. 100% of those were accepted at the university of their 1st Choice in subjects from medical science to sports management, from graphic design to environment studies. This year one of the students graduated to a major ivy league university.
We stay on for the extended tour which on a Wednesday is Kul Kul and we learn about the Balinese connection with the school, how the grounds have their own small temples at which offerings are left every day to respect the traditions of Bali, we learn how to make an offering and what it represents, then we are invited to stay for lunch. The school is not fully sustainable yet but it is their plan to grow their own food supply, the school is also not vegan but with plenty of vegan options available including the vegan ice lollies sold at the eco market which was buzzing with parents as it is was the first day back at school.
We left hugely excited, I do want my daughter to go to the Green School Bali. The cost would be $1,000 a month for my daughter and would mean we would have to relocate to Bali for a year, the cost of living once there is cheap. If ever there was an incentive to grow an online business it is seeing this school, I think a year here would be life-changing for us all as a family and it will certainly play on mind over the next few years as I consider how the hell we could make it work! My biggest issue would be after a year at this school how the heck could you send your child back into a normal system. Sadly right now Green School Bali is an impossibility for me but maybe one day!
It seems I am not alone in my daydreaming, the school is becoming a destination school where families are leaving their lives behind to do a year the green school many staying on 2, 3, 4 years longer than planned once making the move. I meet two other families from Europe with children in international schools who are wanting to make the move and commute for work to Australia and china to support their income whilst they give their kids this amazing opportunity.
I can see why, at the end of the tour we see a group of 7 teens they are on a break and they are involved in a highly engaged conversation for the duration of the half-hour we are having our lunch, not one of them gets their phones out, at any time although we are told there is no ban on mobile devices. These kids are inspired, active, and by the looks of things very happy exactly where they are with no need to be escaping into the world of their phones.
Explore The Green School here.