MONTREAL, OCTOBER 16, 2009- Two elementary schools from the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) – Carlyle in Town of Mount Royal and Michelangelo in Rivière des Prairies - have begun the process of becoming part of the prestigious International Baccalaureate – Primary Years Programme (IB – PYP).
Founded in 1968, the International Baccalaureate Programme (IBO) is designed to bring a perspective of internationalism to a school community.
The goal of this network is to develop children as global citizens who think and act responsibly to help make this world a better peaceful place. This is achieved through a very specific curriculum of inquiry that help students question and learn about the world in which they live. The basic context of skills, attitudes and knowledge from the Quebec Curriculum are still adhered to, yet units of inquiry are developed around this International perspective. The curriculum encourages students to be aware of local, national and global issues. Assessment requires students to be reflective and evaluate the learning that they have practiced. Finally, all learning leads to some form of action. Language is paramount to the learning process and IB standards insist that language learning be the center of all learning. This international program is child-centered, guaranteeing that all students’ learning styles and special needs are respected.
FIVE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS
In the IB-PYP the curriculum has five essential elements: Students explore different concepts through classroom research and units of inquiry; students learn essential knowledge that have local, national and global significance.; research and inquiry skills are developed; activities are designed that promote positive student attitudes; and programs offer all learners the opportunity to take action in their community and within the environment they live. IB learners are taught to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.
The curriculum has six trans-disciplinary themes that surround six subjects: language, social studies, math, arts, science and technology, and personal, social and physical education. The ideas within the curriculum are engaging and challenging and children are taught see the relevance and to connect these ideas to the world beyond their school experiences.
The PYP is aimed towards students between the ages of three and 12, in which its emphasis is on the total growth of a developing child. It helps to touch the hearts and minds of students, as well as encompass their social, physical and cultural needs along with fostering their academic development. The first IB school was established in 1974 and there are currently over 2,200 in 127 countries, with 258 in Canada and 10 in Montreal. Three EMSB high schools – Marymount Academy in NDG and John Paul I and Laurier Macdonald in St. Léonard – offer the IB program. Michelangelo and Carlyle are the first elementary schools in the EMSB to pursue the implementation of the IB-PYP.
"The IB – PYP is a good academic program, which offers students the best in pedagogical practices and personal development," said Joan MacMillan, Principal of Carlyle School, whose letter of intent to become an IB school was accepted last winter. "It helps children to think deeply and act wisely through inquiring about the world around them. It offers the best in quality education for students. Children can make the world a better place by the actions they take. When children become educated conscientious citizens of the world, they become more responsible, caring and understanding. They develop into citizens that respect the cultural diversity of our society and world globalization… creating a better and more peaceful world.”
Adds Michelangelo Principal Anna Della Rocca: “This is more than just a content-oriented program, it deals with concepts and it is a constructivist approach to learning. They learn the skills to become good lifelong learners, as well as responsible citizens understanding local and global issues. In a homogenous community like RDP, it’s important to have an outlook on the world, and the IB-PYP program opens students’ eyes to other cultures and what is going on out there in other communities and around the world."
Ms. Della Rocca added that the school has given its students some exposure of how encompassing the IB-PYP program can be for them. Guest speakers from many of Montreal’s ethnic and cultural communities have appeared to inform students about their respective cultures and customs; they did several community service projects such as collecting food and other goods for the needy, preparing for blood drive clinics held at the school and they even raised money for the organization Free The Children, so that a school can be built in Kenya. Events were held over the last two years for International Peace Day, Global Campaign for Literacy and Stand Up Against Poverty.
COMPLEX APPLICATION PROCEDURE
The process for a school to get IB status is a long, complex one and can last from three to five years. Once the idea is accepted by a school’s staff, parents and governing board, and a letter of intention is accepted by IB, teachers are trained to learn about the IBO program’s philosophy, standards, and how it’s organized and taught. An IB coordinator is appointed within the school to help oversee the framework of the program, its 32 units of inquiry and ensure that the IB philosophy, attitudes and learner profiles are incorporated into the curriculum while adhering to standards and competencies set by the Quebec Education Plan (QEP).
There are three phases to the IB process. In the case of Carlyle, the school is presently in phase one of working toward “Application A.” During this time the school continues to examine and work with the IB PYP philosophy and curriculum and work on applying it to our school. During this year Carlyle will demonstrate to IB that all financial and human resources are available. The IB provides a list of standards that must be met by IB regional offices. All staff members will have read IB publications such as “Making the PYP Happen” and other curriculum information. The remainder of the staff will receive training. The IB PYP coordinator and administrator will also undertake IB approved training. Staff will begin writing units of inquiry and implement them in their classrooms this year.
By May 2010 “Application A” will be sent to IB Americas. Included will be a description of the school’s programs, organization of teaching time and resources and languages offered. The school will include its IB action plan and the type of support in place to implement the program. A description of the school facilities and available teaching personnel in the school also needs to be indicated while a financial plan and management of resources will be included. CD-Roms with the units of inquiry and supporting documents will also be submitted for evaluation.
Ms. Della Rocca says that Michelangelo School will apply as an IBO candidate school in April, 2010. Ms. MacMillan hopes to have Carlyle become a fully authorized IBO school by 2012.
"The IBO-PYP program addresses the child of the 21st century," said Ms. MacMillan. "It engages them in real learning and thinking, while constructing knowledge."