Highlighted article – The IPC: a curriculum growing in popularity amongst many international schools (Part 2)
November 4, 2011
Each IPC unit has embedded within it, learning-focused activities that help young children start developing a global awareness and gain an increasing sense of the ‘other’. Every unit creates opportunities to look at learning of the theme through a local perspective, a national perspective and an international perspective.
With schools in over 63 countries learning with the IPC, opportunities abound for children to share their local experiences related to an IPC unit with children in dramatically different environments. Take the children at the International School of Iceland last year, who shared their first-hand experiences of the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano with their IPC friends around the world learning with the IPC Active Planet unit. These children have listened to, communicated with and learned from each other in a real world context.
Developing Personal Dispositions
The personal dispositions we form as individuals do not come from reading about them in a book or discovering them spontaneously. But rather, they are established over time with constant use and that’s how the IPC views children’s learning of personal skills. So instead of ‘add-on’ lessons about such elusive personal skills as morality or respect, the opportunities to experience and practise very specific personal dispositions are built into the learning tasks within each thematic unit. In addition, many of these tasks are group activities which encourage children to consider each others’ ideas and opinions, share responsibilities, respect other people’s views and communicate effectively. For example, in the IPC Water unit, a group of children have to make a water turbine. They start by creating if from cardboard and, through their own research and development – along with gentle guidance from the teacher – work out how to improve their design to make it more resilient and effective. Not only are they learning about the power of water, but at the same time these children are developing the skills of cooperation, enquiry, communication and adaptability.
Each IPC unit has a very structured yet flexible teaching framework providing teachers with a series of learning tasks. These are designed to achieve the learning goals through creative, meaningful and memorable learning activities that appeal to all learning styles and are relevant for all children of all abilities. In addition, these learning tasks have been carefully designed to help children build upon their development of individual skills from previous IPC units.
However, the learning tasks are purely a guide and provide plenty of scope for creative teaching, personalisation to the class and the locality, and development on the theme.
For UK and British international schools, the IPC learning goals are cross-referenced to meet the National Curriculum guidelines of England, assuring teachers that their children are learning in a rigorous as well as engaging, creative and relevant way. Cross-reference documents are also available for other national schools including Welsh, Scottish, Dutch and Vietnamese schools.
The IPC was originally designed purely as a curriculum. But ten years of growth and development have resulted in a vibrant, global IPC community of schools in over 67 countries as diverse as Swaziland, Malaysia, Qatar, Japan, Russia and Brazil. In the UK the IPC community embraces over 1,000 schools including state primaries plus academies, independent schools, special schools as well as several highly active Local Authorities. This provides a sharing of best-practice and minds encouraged through blogs, podcasting, conferences, summer schools and more, ensuring that no school, however remote, feels isolated.
So what about the feedback from teachers, parents, inspectors and authorities? Headteacher Alex Butler of Hampstead Norreys Church of England Primary School in Berkshire, UK which was awarded Outstanding School of the Year in the 2009 League Tables of English Primary Schools sums up the feelings of many: “The IPC provides you with a very clear teaching framework to follow which we personalise to meet the needs of our children in our locality. Some people have said it’s an off-the-shelf option but that’s not true; there’s huge depth to the learning process, a real understanding of what ignites children’s interest, true expertise of community and international-mindedness, a very careful balance of knowledge and skills in every unit, and some really creative ideas for teaching and for learning with a flexibility to make it your own. Because of doing something quite innovative such as the IPC, everyone is watching you! Our success in the League Tables and the Ofsted inspection have proved to our Local Authority and to other schools that the IPC really is making a difference for us. It’s particularly down to the engagement and to the focus on learning.”
In a quite different setting, Louise Grant, Principal of Elementary, SJI International School in Singapore says, “There is real depth to the IPC. The learning goals and the learning process are the real strengths of IPC. It does a great job of making the learning goals explicit so we all know where we’re heading for. And it takes us through a learning process that immediately engages children and helps them to see a purpose to what they’re learning,” and in Norway, at the British School of Stavanger, Principal, Anne Howells says, “What a difference the IPC has made to the whole school! It not only meets the thematic, creative approach and develops thinking skills but it also focuses on discrete subjects, approaching them in a cross-curricular way which helps to create links between the subjects and, as a result, gives children purpose and meaning to their learning. We’ve seen such a change in the children. Now they are engaged in their learning, they’re switched on to learning, they are going home talking about their learning and this feeling is universal across the school; teachers included.”
For more information about the IPC contact the IPC at +44-207-7531-9696 or visit www.internationalprimarycurriculum.com