“A great school will educate its students not merely to be personally successful but also to use their gifts to build communities and enhance the common good to levels beyond our dreams.”— H.H. Agha Khan
The competitive 21st century world needs empowered children with the right attributes so that they mature into individuals possessing powerful, open and discerning minds with international perspective. Unfortunately, the great majority of our youth are being subjected to pedagogies which encourage rote learning which may secure high grades, but infuse little real knowledge. Rote-based pedagogies lack the holistic approach necessary to prepare future generations to become principled and knowledgeable thinkers, well prepared to assume leadership roles in society.
Fortunately, discerning parents and students have recourse to the unique academic programmes and ground-breaking pedagogies developed by the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate Organisation (estb. 1968). The IB primary, middle and higher secondary (Plus Two) academic curriculums are designed to enable students to develop critical thinking and learn through inquiry and reason; develop key personal and social values; take ownership of their choices, and set objectives to realise their full potential. IB curriculums also mandate extensive facilities for shaping and polishing the creative and sports intelligences of students. Little wonder over the past 40 years, IBO has affiliated 3,022 schools around the world (including 70 in India) with an aggregate enrolment of 844,000 students.
In the IB school in Mumbai which I head, our goal is to instill universally recognised values, skills and tools which will benefit students far beyond their school years. But what are these universally accepted skills and values? Are there any in this complex and diversified world?
I believe the answer is yes! They are embedded in the IB Learner Profile that successfully marries values of the Eastern philosophic tradition (belief in the love of learning, importance of the group over the individual, focus on intellectual, physical and emotional balance) with the best values of Western philosophy (positive approach to unfamiliar situations, developing critical thinking skills, strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of all individuals). The ten aspects of the IB Learner Profile serve as our inspiration in educating all students.
The unique characteristic of IB curriculums is that their goal is far beyond academic achievement. Their objective is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people for building just and egalitarian societies through inter-cultural understanding and respect. To this end IBO works with schools, governments and international organisations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These visionary programmes encourage students to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand the value of other cultures and plural social groups.
The outstanding feature of all IB curricular programmes is the inquiry method which makes it incumbent upon affiliated schools to understand what students want and need to know. This helps to transform students into knowledge seekers rather than passive recepients of information. IB curriculums mandate a broader academic and cultural experience, drawing on content from educational cultures around the world with special emphasis on learning foreign languages.
Another dominant feature is the student-centric curricula for self-study and learning which transforms the role of teachers. Instead of transferring knowledge to students, teachers become facilitators of learning, moderators of the learning process, providing substantial room for students inquiry, presentations, creations and other forms of participation. The objective is to encourage creativity, risk-taking and develop students into confident communicators and team builders. And all these experiences are embedded in a balanced curriculum that focuses equally on English, maths, science, music, art and physical education.
In the newly-emergent global society, these skills-sets are a great selling point for future employment. Employers want the skills acquired by demands of cross-cultural learning. Flexibility, innovation, patience, creativity, and teamwork are just a few of the critical soft-skills in demand. IB students inevitably acquire self-confidence and adaptability as they learn to manoeuvre through knowledge and language barriers, and accommodate diverse cultures and lifestyles.
At Oberoi International School, we help our students develop healthy respect for other peoples opinions, evaluate diverse arguments before making up their minds, and learn to make informed decisions with due care and diligence in the larger public interest.
(Andreas Swoboda is head of Oberoi International School, Mumbai)