From one parent to another: Resilience – Going the Distance


Toy cars, plastic rattles and soft squidgy animals. What toy should I gift my son for his birthday? I drift to another question, “What gift could I give my son for life?”. I am reminded of William Henley’s poem, Invictus; ‘It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. Grit, Resilience. Yes. That’s the one.

But why Resilience over the ever important values or discipline? Research by Angela Duckworth and Chris Peterson indicates that resilience, the ability to cope with difficulties and failures, when coupled with an average intelligence, is the best predictor of success in areas like academics, workplace performance and even marriage staying power. There is a real need to develop resilience, so that our children may withstand the ever-increasing challenge of uncertainty that exists in their futures.

But how does one develop resilience? There are many ways but let’s examine just two methods. Firstly, we must provide opportunities for meaningful participation in life by allowing our young to plan, evaluate and implement projects of their own choice. Secondly, our young must reorient their concept of the mind, which it is not static and unchanging but able to recover, grow and improve.

At Fairview International School, students are empowered to plan and make important decisions inside and outside the classroom. From what to research and exploring deeper after a basic concept is taught in class to projects by the student council, a body of students empowered to make recommendations that voice the opinions of the student body. A consistent practice of empowerment, coupled with adult supervision, throughout the learner’s educational experience leads to an understanding of choice and responsibility.

Fairview’s students go on academic expeditions and travel to distant locations, like our Grade 10 students who went to Mulu, Sarawak last year. Some students experienced difficulties and almost gave up. However with guidance and support of the teachers they climbed further than they would have. In order to do that, goals were set of reaching certain points before a break, the mantra of one foot in front of the other was repeated, the student was encouraged and the student’s mindset changed from ‘I can’t do’ to ‘I will put in the effort, and push myself to get as far as I can’.

The strategy used with the students was Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset. This requires them to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and improve themselves, and a belief that intelligence, personality and character can be developed.

To rise from the ashes like a phoenix from the flames, to face defeat with a stony resolve, to walk bravely and down the moral path into an uncertain future. What does resilience mean to you?

This article is the fifth of a 6-part series on education. Final instalment next week!

Dr Vincent Chian is currently the IB Diploma Director of Fairview International School. A former medical doctor working in psychiatry he now spends his time championing emotional and effective development in education.

* Fairview International School currently has 4 IB World Schools across Malaysia; KL, Subang, JB and Penang. Fairview Ipoh will be an international school, with enrollment open for August 2014. For more information, call 05 313 6888 or email:

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