claiming the space

Claiming the Space

IntroductionWith rapid changes in life’s pace, accelerating globalisation, and the challenges of an uncertain future, those in charge of education must meet the needs of young people by preparing them for a rapidly changing world in which the ability to learn is critical (Claxton, 2007). Therefore, schools must reinvent and revitalise learning by adopting a new mindset to create an education system that embraces the digital age and enables students to learn, engage, and thrive (Robinson, 2020). Developing the SpaceHow young people learn begins in the educational setting, where teachers create conditions for learning that monitor and assess student progress. Teachers bring not only a toolkit of teaching experience, but they are also enactors of the learning process, developing the framework for learning through knowledge sharing, support, and constructive feedback to maximise the learner’s potential. Teachers have a unique opportunity to adapt and make professional judgments by considering the next step in the learning process. It is said that teachers are “at the heart of the action” (Bruner, 2002) and are in the best position to effect necessary changes in our educational systems. Bruner (2002) believes that for educational reform to be successful, teachers must play an essential role in shaping its future. This belief in empowering teachers to ensure learning occurs is evident in Finnish schools, where teachers have the freedom to choose, implement, and develop assessment practices in their classrooms (Eteläpelto et al., 2015). This policy is not the case worldwide, as other countries’ education policies have sought to limit teachers’ ability to exercise complete control over their classrooms. Often governments have taken an evidence-based and data-driven approach, assessing students’ ability to pass summative assessments and evaluating teachers’ performance based on their student’s ability to pass them. Making SenseIncreasing teachers’ autonomy does appear to make sense. It is likely to result in increased personalisation because teachers can respond to educational and social changes, such as changes in the school community’s demographics or policy changes. Thus, by providing a space for teachers to develop a personal and professional identity that is not fixed or shaped by political reforms, teachers can exercise their agency to evaluate learners’ performance in a dynamic learning environment. References Bruner, J. (2002) Tenets to understand cultural perspective on learning, in Moon, B., Shelton-Mayes, A., Hutchinson, S. (eds), Teaching, Learning and Curriculum in Secondary Schools, London, RoutledgeFalmer, pp. 10–24. Claxton, G. (2007) Expanding young people’s capacity to learn, British journal of educational studies, 55(2), pp. 115–134. [Online] DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8527.2007.00369.x. (Accessed 24 April 2021). Eteläpelto, A. Vähäsantanen, K. & Hökkä, P. (2015) How do novice teachers in Finland perceive their professional agency? Teachers and Teaching, 21:6, 660-680, [Online] DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2015.1044327 Robinson, K. (2020) Creating a New Normal (YouTube video, added by The Call to Unite [Online]. Available at (Accessed 25 April 2021). 

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Exploring the IBDP Curriculum

IntroductionThe IBDP celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. Since its inception in the 1960s to develop globally-minded citizens, it has become a viable alternative in many national education markets, with over 3,400 schools in over 150 countries (IBO, 2019). Over this time, the IB has evolved into more than just an international diploma that promotes intercultural understanding for students in their final two years of secondary school, according to Tarc (2009), but one that has become a significant and growing presence in policy and curricular reform due to its strong emphasis on multiculturalism. Factors of GrowthIndeed, one major factor in this growing presence was the introduction of programmes for younger age groups in the 1990s to create a learning continuum for all students: the Primary Years Programme (PYP, age 3-10 years) and the Middle Years Programme (MYP, age 11-16 years) (MYP, age 11-16 years). Furthermore, as globalisation became a more widespread phenomenon, the IB sought to diversify by becoming a more comprehensive corporate entity, allowing its programmes to be more accessible to less developed communities (Charleson, 2010), addressing the global drivers for change in education and demography. This shift resulted in a greater emphasis on international awareness and an effort to make a difference by incorporating a shared educational philosophy into all of its programmes that develop students’ values, academic skills, and disciplinary knowledge (IBO, 2020b). On the business side, however, the IBO flagship, the IBDP, remains the most popular of the three programmes, thanks to its transferable school qualification for expatriates and globally mobile families (Resnik, 2009). IBDP TodayTo fully comprehend the IBDP curriculum today, it is necessary to look back, as it has barely changed since its inception over half a century ago. The IBDP curriculum emerged in the early 1960s when IQ tests and memorisation dominated traditional teacher-centred learning, closed classrooms, and national perspectives. Social studies teachers met in 1962 at the International Schools Association (ISA) conference to discuss developing a progressive, holistic curriculum that moved away from the accumulated knowledge developed through traditional learning. To one that embraced a curriculum framework based on student-centred learning that encouraged critical thinking, skill testing, multiple perspectives, and constructivism, which was influenced by several progressive teaching philosophies, including John Dewey, A.S. Neill, Jean Piaget, and Jerome Bruner. Staying ConsistentIts aims have remained consistent over the years, emphasizing critical thinking skills, promoting intercultural understanding, and providing students with an international perspective through an eclectic mix of academic models offering subject choices, a depth of knowledge to cope with the first year of university, and opportunities to explore the arts, sciences, and technologies. It is a prescribed curriculum containing information about the learning content and allows schools to decide how to implement it (IBO, 2020a). This curriculum autonomy has enabled schools to adapt to global drivers. One of the curriculum’s early primary drivers was ‘education for sustainable development,’ which continues today (IBO, 2020a), along with its pathway to international-mindedness for a better world (Hill, 2012). Student ChoicesStudents in the IBDP Curriculum can study subjects from six curricular areas: language and literature, language acquisition, sciences, mathematics, and the arts. External and internal assessments, such as fieldwork, orals, and artistic performances, are included in all subjects (IBO, 2020c). These assessments enable students to demonstrate an understanding of using their personal, procedural, and propositional knowledge, allowing teachers to explore various topics and teaching approaches within the curriculum parameters (IB0, 2020b). In addition, students must complete three mandatory components: the Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS), and an Extended Essay (EE), all of which serve to develop research and critical thinking skills as well as opportunities for reflection and connection. Reflecting on 50 yearsLooking back at the IBDP, one of the significant constraints on the curriculum is that the DP cannot make any more significant revisions after fifty years due to international university admissions standards recognition. Indeed, the structure’s complexity, with its six subject groups, core components (TOK, EE, and Extended Essay), Approaches to Learning, and alignment with the IB Learner Profile, can be challenging for teachers and students. However, the IBDP remains consistent and reliable in assessment and continues to spread its unique brand of education worldwide. References Charleson, C. T. (2010) ‘Book Review: Global Dreams, Enduring Tensions: International Baccalaureate in a Changing World’, Journal of Research in International Education. London, England: SAGE Publications, pp. 330–334. doi: 10.1177/14752409100090030904.   Hill I. (2006) International Baccalaureate Programmes and Educational Reform. In: Hughes P. (eds) Secondary Education at the Crossroads. Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns And Prospects, vol 9. Springer, Dordrecht . International Baccalaureate Organization (2012) The IB Diploma Programme, IBO, p. 3 figure 1  International Baccalaureate Organization (2019) Key facts about the DP. Available at: (accessed 10 December 2020). International Baccalaureate Organization (2020a) The DP Curriculum Available at: (accessed 10 December 2020).   International Baccalaureate Organization (2020b) The IB Teaching Style. Available at: (accessed 10 December 2020). International Baccalaureate Organization (2020c) Assessment and Exams. Available at: (accessed 10 December 2020). Resnik, J. (2009). Multicultural education – Good for business but not for the state? the ib curriculum and global capitalism. British Journal of Educational Studies. 57. 217 – 244. 10.1111/j.1467-8527.2009.00440.x.   Tarc, P. (2009). Global Dreams, Enduring Tensions: International Baccalaureate in a Changing World. New York: Lang.

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Are we assessing our English Language Learner fairly?

Are we assessing our English Language Learners fairly?

With exam season in full swing and rows of students racing against the clock to finish, have you ever wondered if we are assessing all our students fairly? Turn back the clock BTI (before the internet), and a visit to the same exam room may not appear all that dissimilar to the present day. Changing times This formal atmosphere in brightly lit halls, with invigilators roaming, and no-cheating signs plastered on the white walls, is the exercise that students must complete at the end of something. Over the years, our illustrious national examination boards have taken some initiatives with practical exams, but standardised testing seems to rule the roost. However, it is safe to say that things have changed since BTI. New faces Our schools are no longer brimming with native English speakers as a result of demographic shifts caused by increased immigration and the pull of ‘western’ education. As a result, English-speaking countries are looking for the best ways to educate their English Language Learners (ELL), as many schools are experiencing difficulties because assessments that appeared to ‘work’ well with native English speakers do not appear to yield reliable data for ELL. Better assessment for different times So, how can we improve our ELL’s performance evaluation? There is no easy solution, but we do know that standardised English-medium assessment is not the way forward. They are simply too linguistically demanding to generate reliable data to rank them in comparison to their peers. Creating a personal learning portfolio that documents their language acquisition over time is a far better alternative. Personal learning portfolio (PLP) Portfolios have been around for a long time, primarily used by designers and artists to showcase their creative talents and as a critical tool for the exchange of ideas. PLPs are also a great way to show off your students’ achievements. This is particularly true for ELL, as they can be used to improve language skills while also serving as an assessment tool to track their learning experiences and progress. ePortfolio As the world increasingly shifts to digital technology, the traditional portfolio can be transformed into a digital format that offers diverse media content and allows the ELLs to have unlimited storage capacity to collect digital resources. Implementing the portfolio Creating an ELL portfolio takes some planning and discussion, but with the help of specialist language teachers, you should be able to get it up and running in no time. However, make sure you have a good set of guidelines regarding the time, place, and manner in which students are assessed throughout the system. Learning to adapt assessment To create a future-ready education, we must recognize the challenges that our students face and develop appropriate assessment strategies to help build students’ confidence and highlight their accomplishments. As more students join the school community whose first language is not English, English-medium schools must adapt their assessments to be fair to their English Language Learners.

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Times Are Changing

Times Are Changing In International Schools

Turn back the clock twenty years and an international school may not seem too dissimilar in its appearance to those in the present day. They all seem to be able to nestle quite comfortably in the suburbs of any major modern city in the world. However, it is fair to say that times have changed. The glossy prospectuses of the past have been replaced with websites full of colourful images of multi-cultural groups huddled in labs and classrooms or hanging out together on campus. These images represent a school’s student body and are indicative of the dramatic, and developing, a demographic shift that is taking place around the world. The growth in the number of international schools in the last twenty years has been staggering, and it is estimated that the current number will double over the next ten years. In theory, this should provide parents with more choices in terms of location, price and facilities. In reality, it means that there are now quite radically different types of international schools on the market, and parents need to be very clear about the sort of education that they are buying into – the term ‘international’ has a variety of interpretations. The reasons for this explosive growth are twofold: in the first place, the rising middle class in many emerging economies means that there is an increasing demand for an English medium ‘western-style’ education, and secondly, some countries have removed the restriction that once prevented their nationals from attending an international school. The international school has found a new market from its original purpose and conception. No longer is it for children of expatriates and diplomats, but also for nationals fortunate enough to be able to meet the fee levels and who wish for their children to be fluent in the global language, as well as being able to compete for places at universities in the West. The spread of multinational corporate groups also points the way to future employment. As more local nationals take up places in international schools, the number of native speakers of English may decline – in fact in some Bangkok ‘international schools’ the number of local students is around the 90% mark. Of course, there have always been international schools with low numbers of native speakers, but rarely has English been supplanted by a single other language spoken by the vast majority of students. This is an ‘inconvenient truth’ for many international schools, and the road to establishing English under such circumstances can be a bumpy one. In our world of instant fixes where we can upgrade our efforts with a click or a swipe of the finger, we often expect and seek quick remedies. Special language programmes, or classes, are common features of international education, but although well-intentioned these may be established with little thought and perhaps even less effort. Very often these ‘booster’ classes serve little purpose other than to provide ‘survival’ English, and rarely tackle the important issue of academic language, which is vital if a student is to cope successfully in mainstream classes. There is no simple way to solve this problem – in fact, there is probably no single solution that all international schools would completely agree upon; this is due to the complexity of language acquisition as well as the factors that affect English language learning in different environments. However, it is imperative that successful strategies are implemented in English-medium international schools to better meet the demands of acquiring English fit for academic purposes. Recognising the true nature of the problem is an important first step along the way.

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