Conrad Hughes (PhD) is Campus and Secondary Principal of La Grande Boissière, the oldest and largest campus of The International School of Geneva, where the IB started in the late 1960s. He is also a Diploma Programme graduate of the United World College of Waterford Kamhlaba, Southern Africa. His book Understanding Prejudice and Education: The Challenge for Future Generations was published by Routledge in 2017. He also published Teaching English A in the Diploma Programme in 2011 with Pearson. He teaches theory of knowledge (TOK) and philosophy.
Why did you originally decide to pursue an IB diploma?
Growing up in apartheid South Africa meant that Waterford Kamhlaba (UWCSA) was one of the only non-racial schools in the region. With that came the open-mindedness and intercultural awareness that the IB is all about. That interest in an education for less prejudice has marked many of my decisions as an adult, including my research and publications.
Who inspired you most as an IB student?
I had a visionary French teacher: the late great Roelf Huysmans. He taught me the two powerful expressions of education that transcend temporal, jargon-laden schools of pedagogy: passion for the beauty of the subject and the empowerment knowledge gives you. I carry these with me in my approach to this day.
Are there skills you developed as an IB student that you still use today?
People like to talk about 21st century skills nowadays; things like communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. I believe the IB strengthened these in me (the assessment covers many competences) but more importantly, it is the extraordinary rigour of this demanding programme that brings out the all-important value of hard work and the invaluable jewel of self-confidence.
What do you think motivates students throughout their DP studies at the International School of Geneva?
We are a non-selective school, so success looks and feels different for each student. We are also completely bilingual (French-English) and offer the whole programme in both languages. These elements are different to what I experienced as a student. However, the fundamental motivation for students, that coming-of-age excitement and wish to spread your wings and fly, remains one and the same.
The DP is a fantastic programme. I am particularly enthusiastic about TOK and think schools, when planning course delivery, should emphasize indigenous knowledge systems as a different, much needed way of looking at the world so as to appreciate natural cycles.