Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks or the teachers' new techniques? For the teachers from around the world who attended the recent International Baccalaureate (IB) workshops held at Emirate International School, Dubai, to learn new techniques and teaching skills more than amply disapproved that old cliché.
“The IB programme offers a wide scope of study,” explains Dr. Ian Hill, regional director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East for the IB organisation headquartered in Geneva. “These conferences and workshops, of which some ten are held every year in every region, are designed to bring together the teachers who impart the curriculum with those who design and structure it.”
The Emirates International School (EIS) is one of the major centres in the UAE for the IB curriculum. Since the programme’s inception at EIS three years ago, it has shown impressive growth. Sig Jensen, principal of the high school at EIS, said that the school had planned thoroughly for the IB conference to ensure students participated in the event by assisting at every level. They helped the delegates prepare workshops, giving assistance as it was required, and helped the school administration with the organisation of the conference.
It may come as a bit of a surprise to many that the students enthusiastically volunteered for such duty, but it may help to know that to become an IB graduate, each student has to perform some 150 hours of assessed community service. That, among other things, is what makes the IB such a unique curriculum.
According to Dr. Hill, “The IB is a much more rounded curriculum. It seeks to not only educate students in the regular forms, but it also endeavors to make them well rounded individuals, which is where the community service comes in. We want students to give a little of themselves to the disadvantaged.” Here in the UAE, this is accomplished by helping out with handicapped or disabled children, various community activities, and assisting in conferences such as the IB workshop.
Such services notwithstanding, the IB also constantly seeks to improve its curriculum by offering new subjects that are of topical interest. “We want to get away from the Eurocentric image of the IB,” said Hill. “One example of this is the ‘History of the Islamic World’ course, created some seven years ago. It was set up to impart Islamic historical knowledge to those who may not have had any other exposure to Islam other than hearing about Islamic terrorist groups and their activities on the television.”
Maintaining the IB certification for Emirates International School is as tough as it is for the student. “The school needs to have an international mindset,” explains Hill. “Having a mix of students and staff from different nationalities is part of that. Generally, having an open outlook is a critical feature. The school must understand the philosophy of the IB.” With over 73 nationalities represented at EIS, it would be difficult to find a more international mix for the IB system anywhere.