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Mythbusting What is Rigour at CIS

Mythbusting: What is rigour at CIS?

“Rigour: The goal of helping students develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, provocative, and personally or emotionally challenging.” 1

“Rigour” is a term that is defined differently by different educational institutions. At Canadian International School (CIS), a top school in Bangalore, rigour is defined ultimately by our students’ ability to think and act independently, develop lasting habits, and qualities of active, self-motivated learners. Understanding rigour is essential for understanding how to approach and measure the learning of students and forces us to question the standards we demand from our students and reconsider exactly what we consider as true achievement:

“Some mistakenly assume that rigour means making things more difficult. Others believe it means piling on the work … it is not quantified by how much gets crammed into a school day — it is measured in depth of understanding.” 2

Learning at CIS is a transformative process that leads to conceptual understanding, demonstration of competencies through application, and character development as seen through the CIS Core Values of Integrity, Joy, Respect, Caring, and Inspiration. It is defined by learning and focusing on the “3Cs” – Concept, Competencies, and Character. Students at CIS become active agents in their own learning, capable communicators and thinkers, and highly collaborative.

Rigour in the classroom is a result of the use of instructional strategies that create high levels of student engagement and agency, that encourage students to collaborate and communicate effectively and that drive conceptual understanding. At CIS, we create classroom environments in Elementary, Middle, and High School that ensure a high degree of performance from each student. Our teachers believe in the potential for each student’s success and communicate this belief through lessons and tasks that are designed to lead students to become independent learners and to ask thought-provoking questions.

“Rigour is the result of work that challenges students’ thinking in new and interesting ways. It occurs when they are encouraged toward a sophisticated understanding of fundamental ideas and are driven by curiosity to discover what they don’t know.” 2

Assessment of students in an academically rigorous school involves the teacher providing students with a wide range of opportunities to demonstrate their achievement in relation to standards. At CIS, assessment is more than just completing test or exam papers. Students are expected to show their knowledge and skills in a variety of ways so that they grow in their ability to face challenges. Reflection on their learning progress is an essential part of the assessment that helps students understand themselves as learners.

By the time students leave CIS, they possess strong conceptual understanding. They are able to apply this knowledge to initiate, plan, execute and reflect on projects relevant to each content area. Students are able to generalize from one content area to another and apply content-area knowledge in an integrated fashion. They understand all aspects of clear communication whether written, verbal or visual, and they are able to use a wide variety of media to clearly communicate sophisticated concepts and to confidently deliver presentations to a variety of audiences. Students understand what constitutes ethical behaviour, are able to act with integrity in a wide variety of situations and demonstrate the character required to be successful in anything they choose to do. This is rigour at CIS.

To learn more about learning in the Elementary, Middle, and High School sections at Canadian International School (CIS), reach out to us at

1 Definition from “Teaching What Matters Most: Standards and Strategies for Raising Student Achievement” by Richard W. Strong, Harvey F. Silver and Matthew J. Perini, ASCD, 2001

2 “A New Definition of Rigor” by Brian Sztabnik, Edutopia, May 7, 2015