Meet EtonHouse Orchard's Founding Head

Born in the UK, Alec Jiggins has taught in schools across Colombia, Chile, Montenegro and Ecuador – and his latest move brings him to Singapore as the founding head for EtonHouse’s new Orchard campus.
Meet EtonHouse Orchard's Founding Head
By Carli Allan
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Here’s a head teacher who has global experiences ranging from touring state-of-the-art robotics labs in San Francisco schools to meeting the founder of Biblioburro, a travelling donkey library in Colombia – and that's just in his spare time! Jiggins also brings with him a passion for social responsibility, entrepreneurship and collaboration – and some innovative approaches to education.

We find out more...

What type of a head teacher are you?

I still teach, and I always have done as a school leader – it’s vital for me to be in the classroom. Then, when I meet with teachers to talk about changes to the curriculum, it’s from a position of ‘we’ rather than ‘you’; that’s really important to me.

What attracted you to EtonHouse Orchard?

I look at schools through two sets of eyes, both as a professional and as a parent, and I was very happy with EtonHouse’s child-centred learning on both levels. My daughter studies here, so it’s important that the school I go to aligns with our values and our philosophy of education.

I was very lucky that the board of EtonHouse said to me, design your dream school! I had free reign to put into practice what I believe education is about and where’s its going.

Read our review of EtonHouse Orchard here.

So, what direction should education be going towards?

The knowledge economy is dying, and we’re now going into the human economy. We need to be educating for what humans can do and what machines can’t. So, at EtonHouse, we’re looking at the human ability to pick apart problems and solve them, rather than focus on knowledge. You can find the knowledge by going to any website or picking up a book – but it is important that you know what to do with it. I believe that we need to give our students the individual freedom to express themselves and investigate things they are interested in.

I believe in holistic education and, with 14 years’ experience in the International Baccalaureate Diploma, I am convinced it is the best pre-university education on offer today.

What are the challenges of setting up a new school?

The great thing about a new school is that you don’t have implementation fatigue because you are implementing from day one. The challenge is to focus on what’s essential and try not to be distracted by the latest gadgets and trends in education.

And what are the key challenges you face in delivering an all-through education here in Singapore?

The challenge for schools in general is that universities still have an entrance criterion. A child may not be a Grade A student, but they may have contributed to society through community work, they may have a way of analysing a problem, or display critical thinking – and none of these can be measured in a test. We need to move away from the mentality of standardising education and towards individualising education.

At EtonHouse we will focus on what’s important for our children to become a good human being – qualities such as compassion, empathy, sense of responsibility and philanthropy. We want students to realise that you can be successful and you can have a rewarding life without being the next dot.com billionaire or celebrity footballer.

View our school tour here.

What are the advantages of teaching at a smaller campus like EtonHouse Orchard?

I’ve previously worked in a school of 2,000 students where it took over 10 minutes to walk from one side of the campus to the other; the only way we managed to control that number of students was to divide it into five separate schools. Here at EtonHouse, I get to know all the students, their families and the teachers – and it takes me just two minutes to walk from one end of the building to the other!

It’s written on our school wall that “students don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. It’s much easier to manage a focus on the student as the individual in a smaller school environment. We are small and flexible enough to offer a range of diverse pathways to students as we don’t have the defined structures of a large school.

And finally, how do you switch off when you go home?

I like to write in my journal, do some creative writing, or read a book. I’ve also challenged myself to learn French. I love taekwondo too, it’s a great stress relief!

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