Liger Leadership Academy
What is the Liger Leadership Academy?
Jeffrey Holte, Director of Education, Liger Leadership Academy
In developing countries, a strong education can offer individuals a hopeful future and a chance to make lasting beneficial change in their community. However, in underfunded school systems where few high quality schools exist, children can have very limited opportunities to develop the skills and attributes necessary to be change makers. Careers in STEM or entrepreneurship can create livelihoods for individuals and positively impact whole communities, but without an already strong economy, it is difficult to fund education in these fields. This means that children from around the developing world, in particular, lack the opportunity to develop to their full potential and communities miss out.
The Liger Leadership Academy is a not for profit school that recruits children from various provinces in Cambodia to change their lives and expand their opportunities and in doing so create the change agents for the future of the country. Through a six-year program of project-based, opportunity-based learning and a focus on entrepreneurship and STEAM, students are learning the skills to create change in their own communities and beyond.
At Liger, children learn about the world around them by becoming active agents in that world. The school embodies a design thinking approach, encouraging students to think deeply, brainstorm ideas, plan and implement solutions to real problems. Liger allows for at least 25% of time for experiential learning off campus. This could include long term projects such as building an artificial reef off the coast of Cambodia, working with experts and politicians to affect policy change, or even researching, writing and publishing a groundbreaking book on native species. Students are also free to spend a couple days a week on a long term (1-3 year) research project of their choosing, to fit around their essential learning. Liger staff and students work in partnership with the government to create STEM projects that are not too demanding of resources and money.
The learning is truly personalized and differentiated towards a student’s interests, skills, and passion. For example, one group were highly interested in English Language and so they designed and taught an English program in the local community. Every effort is made to accommodate a student’s interests, if a pupil wants to go on a week long seminar on business start ups, or a two-day course on birds with expert ornithologists, the school arranges this. Students create a portfolio of their best work which is representative of their unique learning journey and personal growth.
In addition to their regular classes led by trained teachers, Liger invites industry experts from around the world to visit the school either in person or virtually using Skype. At Liger you will find anything from skype guitar lessons to visiting geologists leading geological fieldwork throughout Cambodia. Working with these and many other international experts means there is no end to quality learning opportunities. The school puts a strong emphasis on Cambodian culture so that, as well as understanding and experiencing other cultures, the children take a deep knowledge and pride in their own country and culture.
Liger travels around Cambodia and select students with significant potential, based on how they exhibit leadership, ingenuity, creativity and enthusiasm - not just academic skills. The selection usually involves series of tests, activities, and interviews in which students are able to demonstrate creativity, passion, curiosity, positive ideas and the character needed to be a changemaker of the future.