“Opening a school is a rewarding experience,” says Gregory, “as you can truly shape the ethos of the school. Also, at small schools you have to do jobs that you never gave a thought to, such as designing classroom furniture and the school uniform.”
This hands-on practicality stands him in good stead as he settles into his role as Head of One World International School (OWIS), and life in Singapore with wife Lesley, also a teacher, and their three children. Singapore is a familiar environment to a family that has called Asia home for 15 years. They’ve taught in Indonesia, and their children were all born in Bangkok, where they lived for many years.
When I spoke to Gregory, the family had recently returned from a trip home to Scotland. “I got more culture shock landing in Glasgow than landing in Singapore,” he said. “Scotland is a wonderful country but it has changed a great deal in the last 15 years. I believe Asia can be a safer and happier place for children compared with the UK, where they’re expected to grow up too fast.” When asked what attracted him to OWIS, Gregory says, “In larger schools, students can sometimes find themselves just being a statistic, while in a smaller school they’re never very far from their teacher’s sight.”
He’s also aware that the most important aspect of education is the interaction between teacher and student, and with fewer students this interaction can be of a higher quality. “In addition, in small schools there’s usually more involvement from the parents; I encourage this.” He says a school should be at the heart of a learning community, with the parents and teachers all involved in the development of the child.
He is a wholehearted supporter of enquiry- based approaches to learning, such as the international Baccalaureate which is taught at OWIS. “This curriculum enables pupils to learn about the complexities of a ‘big question’ and consider the impact it has on their wider learning. The skills that children develop from this style of learning tend to be highly sought after by employers.”
Gregory also makes the interesting point that the IB curriculum is not tied to any national government’s agenda and doesn’t change on the whim of a politician or minister. “This gives the IB a more stable and reliable curriculum than a state-sanctioned curriculum might have,” he says.
“For those students who enter an IB school for a limited time, as do many expat families, I believe it can only enhance their learning experience.
One of the main concepts is to promote lifelong learning, and with the increase in IB schools throughout the world it is easy to transfer to another school in a different country.”
And outside of school? A keen amateur photographer, Gregory says this hobby provides a creative balance to his science background. (He studied chemistry at university in Aberdeen, Scotland, and worked as an environmental scientist for several years.) Some of his favourite photographs are portraits, and he mentions two recent shots he took in China, where many people do not like having their picture taken.
“One older man, who clearly didn’t own very much in terms of material belongings, was only too happy to stop and smile at the camera. The other man was cycling past with two birds perched on a pole. I started to take photographs while running behind. When he noticed me, he stopped so I could take another photograph; he was clearly proud of his precious birds!” a
One World International School is located at 696 Upper Changi Road East and offers schooling from early childhood to Grade 8.
6542 2285 | owis.org