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Discover the education philosophy of Dr. J.P. Rader, International Community School's new director.

By ITS Education Asia

Learn about how he plans to lead, nurture and grow ICS’ vision to be a school that “Educates Minds and Transforms Lives”.

Dr. J.P. Rader has spent 35 years teaching, mentoring, coaching, recruiting, and inspiring students to reach their fullest potential. He is currently the director at International Community School, Singapore, after serving three years as the secondary school principal of Gyeonggi Suwon International School (GSIS), a Christian-based international school in South Korea. Before that, he spent seven years at Asbury University in Kentucky, USA, as an assistant professor in the School of Education and also the head coach of the Women’s Volleyball team. Dr. Rader spent 23 years in Korea teaching, coaching, and serving as an administrator at the Seoul Foreign School (SFS). At SFS, Dr. Rader taught history in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, served as the school’s athletic director, and coached two varsity sports.

We chat with him about his teaching and leadership background, his educational philosophy, and what exciting new changes are planned for ICS 


Dr. J.P. Rader and his wife, Dr. Helen Rader

How did you choose the move to Singapore, and what are your thoughts on the education system here in Singapore?

A year ago at this time I was not expecting to move to Singapore but a series of events opened the door for me to apply for and be accepted as Director of School at ICS. My wife and I have always had an interest in serving in Southeast Asia, so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to make the move. Singapore’s local school system is world renowned and the international schools here are some of the most respected in the international teaching world. There is much to learn from observing how they do their daily work for the students at their schools. 


In your opinion, what are the three most important areas that a good school should focus on?

A good school is never about the buildings on the campus or the location. It is about the students, teachers, administrators, parents, and staff, and the relationships that are forged within the school walls and on the playing fields. I believe there are three areas where we all need to put our time and energy to create a great school environment: a focus on learning in all settings, in and out of the classroom; building capacity for teachers to grow; and creating a strong community with deep roots. All of this will help create students who can face the future with a skill set that includes thinking innovatively, solving problems, and working collaboratively.


What changes/new ideas would you like to bring about at International Community School?

Our mission at ICS is to educate minds and transform lives. Within this framework, several of the goals I am pointing to include providing more pathways for student success, particularly at the middle and high school levels. We are also enhancing our U.S. based curriculum with a move towards standards-based learning and assessment that will lead to a greater emphasis on student-directed learning and student monitoring of their learning. Finally, I want to build capacity in the arts on our campus at all grade levels and grow our extracurricular program.


What are your strengths as a Director?

I believe my strengths as a Director center on my ability to build strong relationships within the entire school community. When I spoke to the students recently at a chapel, I told them that I would be visible on campus, visiting their classrooms as often as I could and supporting school events. Being a presence in the lives of the students and teachers is a form of inspiration that I hope I can bring. Additionally, I believe I can bring a clear vision for where the school can go and help to see it through.


What is your leadership style?

My leadership style is a blend of servant leadership and situational leadership. I believe that a strong leader builds from the bottom up, not the top down. Building relationships has always been important to me and I have seen how it has enabled collaboration, buy in, and inspiration for the difficult tasks in operating a successful school. Administration, faculty, staff, and students are all looking to be inspired by the leader. I try to do this through consistency, visibility, support, relationship building, competence, and a willingness to make tough decisions when needed.


How do you bring about cohesiveness between the teachers, students and staff in your role?

I am a great believer in building a school based on strong relationships. One of the first things that I did when I got to ICS was schedule individual meetings with each of the faculty and staff to get to know them. I also have implemented a series of student forums so I can hear directly from the students about their praises and concerns for ICS. These actions have dovetailed nicely with the existing frameworks that are already in place such as a weekly chapel time for all grade levels, assemblies, and teachers and students collaboratively preparing our Week Without Walls. I am also going to implement a town hall meeting where the teachers, staff, and I can have open communication about what is going on in our school.  


 In general, what is essential to build a successful school?

The ground zero of any successful school is the classroom. The most important factor for student learning in the classroom is the work of the teacher. Successful schools place maximum attention on developing quality instruction. They find ways to improve instruction through professional development, professional learning communities, and instructional coaches. Linked to that is a strong level of accountability throughout the school among the administration, faculty, and staff that is undergirded by high expectations. Foundational to any successful school is the development of strong relationships and trust that permeates the organization and allows for progress and growth.   


What are your thoughts on technology in the lives of children? 

Our world today has a mountain of distractions for young people that represent some of the greatest challenges they will face in making their way into the world. The big question we have to ask is whether technology is a distraction to our children or an important piece of the learning taking place in the classroom. What we need to do is equip our students with technology skills that will carry them into the work world and provide them with a baseline of skills that will help them navigate an increasingly technology saturated world.


To learn more about life at ICS or to arrange a tour around the school, visit www.ics.edu.sg

Dulwich College Singapore

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