Published on October 13, 2020
More than ever, students today are faced with an increasingly challenging world. They are faced with the diversity of culture, religion, the internet and fake news, social media, climate change, instability in governments of world leading nations and in recent times, a pandemic and the response to this.
The ability for students to have perspective and understanding, given the exposure to often confronting world headlines, calls for a comprehensive global education from a young age. For students to be able to navigate through a complex and ever changing society, there has never been a better time than now for students to see themselves as global citizens who are open-minded, thinking about the world around them, taking action for change and contributing to a more economical, peaceful and sustainable world.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme is one way that schools can use the IB Philosophy and school wide pedagogy for students to develop the skills necessary to navigate global citizenship. Originating in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, the programme was designed to serve children from families with international affiliation through their occupations. The IB was initially offered to secondary aged children in a small selection of private schools and focused on promoting international understanding. It swiftly earned a reputation as a high-quality educational program that could be consistent across different educational settings and could be widely recognised as providing strong academic preparation by colleges and universities around the world (Kidson, P., Odhiambo, G., & Wilson, R. (2019).
Australia’s IB background originated in 1972 when two students attended the International School of Geneva and were awarded IB Diplomas. Upon returning, they attended Australian universities. By 1990, there were approximately 450 Australian IB Diploma holders who had received their awards both within Australia and overseas. The first school to offer the IB in Australia was Narrabundah College in 1979 and then St Leonard’s College in Melbourne in 1982. It was the attempt to foster an ability of the student to think critically that dominated the original founders of the IB. This was of course diametrically opposed to a memorisation approach to learning (Kidson et al., 2019).
One of the foundational concepts of the IB is the focus on teaching and learning in context, but with a global perspective of ‘common humanity’ and ‘shared guardianship of the planet’ (Kidson et al., 2019). The IB programmes are also intended to develop young people to be curious, inquiring, knowledgeable and caring people who will help create a better and more peaceful world through their understanding and respect of intercultural differences (Hill, I, 2007). The IB embraces independent learning, the application of knowledge and has a significant focus on the learned outcomes of community service.
Whilst the IB has a reputation for high-quality rigorous education (Siskin & Weinstein, 2008), it is important to understand that the IB can be viewed as a framework for the epistemology of knowledge, the how we come to know what we know and how we can apply it. It stretches students to evaluate the world around them, rather than learn from a prescriptive curriculum. The IB framework is designed to be the overarching pedagogy of the school curriculum, regardless of the what the national curriculum of any country is. The focus is on the how we learn not what we learn with a commitment to educating the whole person.
For example, the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) prescribes the courses and subject content that students will study across the state. The IB provides the framework of how those subjects and courses will be taught. For example, in a typical classroom of the Middle Years Programme (MYP) Years 7-10, students might be using specific IB Approaches to Learning (ATLs) skills such as critical thinking, research and communication skills to learn those core subjects. Meanwhile a teacher might be using specific IB Approaches to Teaching (ATTs) skills such as teaching through inquiry, concepts and or in local and global contexts. In an IB classroom, students are explicitly taught the skills to become independent learners, which will support them as they move beyond the school gates as ‘life-long’ learners.
The four IB programmes are the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for children aged 3-12, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) for children aged 11- 16, the Career Related Programme (CP) for young adults aged 16-18 and the Diploma Programme (DP) also for young adults aged 16-18. Each one of the programmes is committed to the development of an IB learner profile. The student profile aims to develop learners who are;
There are other elements within each one of the IB programmes that schools must address to be authentic. One of the components of the IB is Service Learning in the MYP and CP and Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) in the Diploma programme (DP) for Years 11 and 12. In the CAS course, students are required to pursue and reflect on non-academic activities under three different categories; Creativity, Activity and Service. Creativity includes ‘a wide range of arts activities’, Activity is defined as ‘not only participating in individual and team sports but also taking part in expeditions and in local or international projects’; and ‘Service’ is described as encompassing ‘a host of community and social service activities’ (Wright, E.,& Lee, M, 2014, p. 5). This helps the development of the IB Learner profile attribute of being Balanced. Other programmes that schools must address in the senior years are the Extended Essay (EE) and Theory of Knowledge (TOK).
The HVGS Context – Why the change? Background and History
Director of IB Programmes Pauliene O’Grady, in her Head, Heart and Hands article for the Hunter Valley Grammar School (HVGS) Success magazine Semester 1, 2019, stated that ‘if HVGS already has strong teaching and learning, a supportive wellbeing program and opportunities for service, the school community may inquire as to why we should adopt the IB?’ She then gives the example, that if we reflect on Years 7-10 in the Senior School, the answer lies in the framework of the MYP, ‘which ties all these learning experiences together’ (O’Grady. P, 2019).
O’Grady (2019), also explains that ‘the characteristics of thinking (head), empathy (heart) and action (hands) are entwined with the introduction to the IB and they permeate into the student experiences; both in curriculum and wellbeing and that the IB MYP gives us the framework for the holistic development of the students in our care, providing integrated opportunities for thinking, empathy and action – the Head, Heart and Hands of Learning’. Thus at HVGS we can develop strong candidates for the CP and DP programmes in the Senior years along with well-rounded, critical thinkers and inquirers for the NSW High School Certificate (HSC).
In 2019 Mr Paul Teys, the Principal of HVGS, took sabbatical leave to explore and the develop the research which would reinforce why we have made the move to adopt the IB framework. Mr Teys travelled across Europe and Hong Kong to visit over twelve IB schools and learn the structures that would be needed to implement the courses, as well as the knowledge and training that staff would need to authenticate the programmes, that would one day become the foundation of pedagogy for Years 7-12, at HVGS. The PYP programme is already a solid foundation at HVGS.
Paul’s visits to IB schools reinforced what was already known and understood about an IB education and the importance of making sure that HVGS would have a sustained, well researched, authentic and consistent approach to pedagogy across K-12 in the future. In other words, it was important that it be a pedagogical model that has historically held the test of the time and one that we want for our students at HVGS. To support the decision to become an IB school, it was found by Paul’s research that students in IB World Schools:
- are given a unique education;
- show a richer understanding and commitment to want to build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect;
- are encouraged to think critically and challenge assumptions and prejudices;
- develop into inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed;
- are encouraged to think independently and drive their own learning;
- are encouraged to consider both local and global contexts;
- take part in programs of education that can lead them to some of the highest-ranking universities in Australia and around the world;
- become more culturally aware, through the development of a second language;
- are able to engage with people in an increasingly globalised, rapidly changing world;
- engage with a much broader, liberal education than the state-based curricula because they study more than subjects. They study mandatory core courses that cut across subjects to the holistic development of young people of integrity and character.
The fact that Maitland is one of the two most rapidly growing areas in the state of NSW (Kelly, 2020), is of direct relevance in supporting HVGS’ interest in becoming an IB school. The other rapid growth area is Cessnock, which is also an enrolment catchment zone. With a brand-new hospital in Maitland and a projected growth rate of 34.4% over the next 20 years (Kelly 2020), it is inevitable that the enrolment numbers and interest in the school will correlate with that growth during that time. The trend is set to continue with working age people and children being forecasted to make up about 60 per cent of the growth in Cessnock in the next two decades (Kelly 2020). ‘The last 10 to 15 years have been a period of dramatic change, for instance, we now have a multicultural face that we didn’t used to have,’ (Kelly 2020). We need to make sure that HVGS is the school of choice for the future with rapidly evolving programmes that will no doubt attract both local and new international standards of education and cater for every kind of learner K-12 moving to the area. The IB will be a point of difference.
The Challenge of Educational Change
Change is never easy in any organisation. People in general, do not want to take risks or come out of their comfort zone. The topic of educational reform or change has received considerable attention in educational literature over recent years (Aladjem & Borman, 2006; Desimone, 2002). An educator’s acceptance of a change is essential to success and leaders have to ensure that all staff are included on the journey and understand and accept the change process. (Bailey, 2000).
However, many educators are often resistant to change, which invariably is an attitude that can serve as an obstacle to change efforts (Zimmerman, 2006). Research shows that teachers tend to react emotionally to change if they are asked to implement more perceived work. In the case of parents, when more thorough understanding is required of what seems skewed from the typical norms in their own education, this may also be the cause of caution or resistance to change. By default, when teachers are feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of change in their school environment, they may develop coping behaviours that may end up being counterproductive, such as just posting keywords around the room, rather than changing their approaches to actual instruction (Martin, L. E., & Kragler, S, 2009).
The change in what has been traditional for HVGS to a now more international flavour of pedagogy and education is not comfortable for some teachers, particularly when very minimal change has been required of them prior to this journey. However, great progress has been made in recent years with staff who are really on board with the journey, this being due to exceptional levels of Professional Development and training for staff. The research journey across Europe and Asia undertaken by our Principal Paul Teys was also fundamental in this progress. The appointments of key staff to roles such as Director of IB, Projects Co-ordinator and MYP co-ordinator, as well as the new Deputy Principal appointment with a background in Service, have been instrumental in the progress thus far.
Change is not new to schools. However, the change at HVGS has been managed in a gradual way, with a progressive implementation of the programmes, exceptional levels of professional development and supporting Heads of Faculty and other Senior leaders, as agents of change.
Hunter Valley Grammar School is currently a candidate school in the Diploma Programme and the Career-related Programme. If HVGS is authorised in both these programmes then HVGS is well on its way to being the first school in Australia to offer all four programmes and hence be the first World School in the country– a title reserved for schools that offer all four programmes.
The decision to become an IB Continuum School in four programmes is well justified. The goal of an IB education is in perfect alignment with HVGS own values and aspirations – ‘to create responsible, socially conscious adults who use their cross-cultural education to promote world peace’.
An IB World Schools network for HVGS will come with many benefits. There will certainly be a much stronger name recognition from the local community and a point of difference to be noted by those interested in potential enrolments. The World School status will be recognised by schools across the nation and by universities. It also allows HVGS access to a global community of educators that promote lifelong learning through international education.
It is recognised that the alignment of all IB programmes in terms of curriculum, assessment, and pedagogical approaches will be at the core of challenges facing HVGS on the journey of becoming a World School over the next few years. It is also recognised that professional development for staff will need to continue to enhance teacher confidence to teach the courses and pedagogical practices of IB. The school also must continue to work towards a leadership framework that best supports the IB philosophy. HVGS students need to be well versed in the benefits of IB so that they can make informed pathway choices and our parent community needs to gain confidence and understanding in a more refined and consistent pedagogical approach to their children’s learning K-12.
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