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What to be

As Head of School at HKA I am sometimes asked, “How rigorous is HKA?” The word rigour appears in the school’s mission statement, and it is one of the foci of the strategic plan as we consider rigour in an inclusive context. Are we rigorous if all our students take the full IB Diploma? Is taking two sciences more rigorous than two arts? More recently, I have found myself being asked about the extent to which the programme can be rigorous and still provide authentic pathways to individual excellence for a range of learners. These questions seem to suggest that there are a variety of perspectives and maybe even some misconceptions about what is meant by the term rigour. Now seems to be a good time to be asking, “What does it mean to be rigorous?”

Rigour is oſten touted as a core component of any quality academic experience, and it is no surprise that it remains the source of much debate among educators and parents. In an Independent School Management article entitled The Rhetoric of Rigour, the case is made that schools overuse the term rigour in part because it would seem highly unlikely that any parent would send his or her child to a school with a marketing message stating, “We lack rigour and have low standards.” However, to suggest this as a reason for striking the word from our materials and conversations only raises more questions about how we are best serving our students for life beyond the classroom.

More established definitions of a rigorous academic programme are associated with the volume of homework students receive


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