Why our schooldirector places great hope in our collective future

For Frazer Cairns the importance of education was instilled in him by his dad. His father left school at 14 and joined the British army before becoming a labourer. However, he was insistent that Frazer and his brother moved on and out of the area of north London they grew up in. “My dad was a bright man, but had no formal education. For him, education was the way to salvation, a pathway to success.

“I went to a comprehensive school in Dagenham, a poor inner city-ish area. There were high levels of unemployment, high levels of disaffection, and I was educated by a number of people who were working really hard in a pretty rough area. I recognise now that the people who work in those kinds of environments chose to work in a city and it was relatively difficult.”

Having heeded his father’s advice and graduating with a degree in Physics from the University of York in the UK, Frazer became a management consultant and then a journalist before retraining as a teacher. He has worked in the UK, Indonesia, and Singapore. before being appointed Director of ISL in 2017.

Teaching physics is something he still does: “I enjoy the experience of being in a classroom and working with people. I like the mess and the noise that this entails, because schools are pretty messy places – they’re kind of emotional and you’re dealing with people and they don’t always behave in the way that they should.”

But whether in his role as Director or physics teacher, his outlook, hope and optimism remain the same.

“I believe education is a force for a better future in a highly multicultural, highly multilingual society in what is a worrying time. We have to make the young people in our care see that the world has been different in the past and it can be different again. The logical thing is to be optimistic that collectively, intelligent people can make a significant difference. If a school can produce two thousand decent people who will go on to make good decisions which help the world move in the right direction, then that will be effective.”

Gradient Issue #2: The magazine of the International School of Lausanne

In this edition, we explore how our community has coped during this special year to make the best of it. We also have a special section on multilingualism and how it can both benefit and challenge our students.