03 SES 13 B, Developing an International Curriculum through the International Baccalaureate
The concept of international schooling was established in the nineteenth century and has since emerged as a significant element of the global education landscape. International schools developed in the twentieth century as something of a movement, often associated with distinctive educational mission. However, the reality has often been more complex with considerable diversity across the sector. Not only is it possible to discern a number of distinctive approaches amongst international schools, but individual schools can face in multiple directions. For example, many international schools have a strong commitment to promoting a global citizenship, combined with a commitment to inclusion. However, such schools also often operate in highly competitive commercial markets where business imperatives assert a decisive influence on organisational objectives. These schools operate therefore in extremely complex environments in which educational mission, commercial considerations and the specificities of cultural context all frame the policies and practices in individual institutions.
The papers in this symposium explore different aspects of curriculum provision in schools that offer the programmes of the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). IBO schools represent a substantial element of the international schools movement, and provision has grown substantially in recent years. The organisation claims a strong commitment to develop ‘international mindedness’ amongst its student community and to secure the wider goal of the IB student as a global citizen. However, it is important to recognise that this objective is not without contention, including an awareness that the IB commitment to international mindedness has struggled to shake free from a perceived western values bias (Walker, 2010).
IB’s pedagogical vision is contained in the IB Learner Profile, described as ‘the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes of the 21st century’ (www.ibo.org) or the organisation’s mission statement ‘in action’. IB’s mission statement reflects the three fundamental principles that inform all of the IB programmes – communication, holistic learning (Hare 2010) and intercultural awareness (Hayden and Thompson, 2011), and hence the Learner Profile is common to the Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme and Diploma Programme. This placing of the Learner Profile within the IB programmes arguably ensures it has a significance within the IB curriculum above all others. It is, in essence, the definition of the IB Learner, presented in the form of 10 attributes.
Two of the papers in this symposium focus on teachers’ and students’ experience of different attributes within the Learner Profile, with a particular interest in the way that those in IB schools seek to translate the ‘IB mission statement’ into pedagogical practice. The third paper focuses specifically on the ways in which technology is integrated into specific aspects of the IB curriculum.
The research presented ranges across all ages in the IB curriculum, and includes a diverse range of schools drawn from several countries. In each case a mixed methods research design has been adopted. All the research presented is based on work funded by IBO. Taken together the papers highlight the complex issues that emerge when teachers seek to develop a genuinely international curriculum.
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