International Curriculum Turning the Tide, Parents Take Note!

Last updated on Thursday, March 26, 2020
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The author of this article has attended a top ranked CBSE school and gained an International (Cambridge University) higher education degree. The article has been drafted with expert inputs from the leading Heritage Xperiential Schools offering both national (CBSE) and International (IPC / IGCSE / IB) curriculums.

Why do I want to educate my child?

This is one of the most important questions each parent should ask themselves early in their child’s education journey. The answer is what shall help decide the correct path to take.

The answer possibly has its seeds on how we gaze the crystal ball of the future as individual parents. Do we see the requirements of the future (read when your child will be ready for the workforce) to be the same as today’s or is it hazy and unknown but certainly a lot different from today’s?

Who do you feel is likely to achieve greater success in the future job market - a person with excellent memory of standardised (possibly dated) content or a problem solver with perspective and good communication?

Do take a minute to ponder before you read ahead! The curriculum you choose is likely to have a big role to play in enabling the desired outcome.

LoC of learning

The national curriculum (read CBSE) is a content based curriculum, often criticised for inculcating rote learning, with standardised information fed primarily through textbooks to conform the knowledge of each student on all subjects of study to a pre-set level. While this may be the pathway to success on standardised tests, it is also an inherent restriction of the curriculum as it lacks the room for independent thoughts and perspectives.

Lifting the borders on learning

The international curriculum such as the IB programme specifically seeks to develop its learners through critical analysis and reflection on topics of study. In the words of Jyothi Thyagarajan, Former Deputy Principal at The British School and current Senior Instructional Leadership Advisor at Heritage International Xperiential School (HIXS) “In this Google-age of knowledge at our fingertips, there is a fundamental shift at workplaces from retention of standardised knowledge to possessing genuine skills to effectively research, discern, communicate and apply the knowledge for everyday problem solving. The international curriculums we subscribe to, do exactly this – get students to research facts, pass them through the lens of multiple perspectives that allows them to critically ask questions, develop a deep understanding through this process and finally convincingly communicate their formed perspectives (orally through presentations and discussions or in writing through research papers). This enables us to deliver a pure experiential curriculum without (national curriculum) restrictions.”

'Top of the class' versus 'Leader of the pack'

In a content based curriculum such as CBSE, success often means following a linear approach of right and wrong to problem solving. Typically, a question has a single pre-set answer. To land at the top of the class you need to be good at memorising the answers. This leaves little scope for discovery and perspective building.

Evidence or outcome based curriculums such as the IB, rely on the evidence or process of discovery for a major part of the learning i.e. which process delivers what outcome. The objective is to train the mind to experiment and to think beyond the obvious.

Let us understand this through an example. Let’s say the students of both curriculums are given Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as part of their English language study. Now CBSE would typically assess their students ability to answer content driven questions such as – What is the central theme of poem?, What are the sights and sounds that the poet experiences in the woods? or Why did the author stop by the woods? Most of these expect a “content” driven answer lifting from the extract such as for the last question - Robert Frost stopped by the woods because he was fascinated with the snowy evening. Now let’s look at how the learners of the IB may approach this. Typical questions here will get the student to develop “skill” to be able to examine the extract on many facets such as setting, character, theme, action and literary devices and provide “perspective & commentary” on questions such as – Write about the way rhyme and punctuation provide a sense of structure, What is the impact sound and rhythm create in this poem? or Find evidence in the poem that it relies on imagery to convey its mixture of beauty and loneliness.

Real life goes far beyond just true or false and right or wrong. Think of the successful leaders you see around you at the workplace and otherwise. Are they necessarily the topper from their school with a linear thought process to every problem or instead often people that are able to break the problem down using their perspective and align people behind their unique solutions? There must be a reason why top business schools (including the prestigious IIMs) use group discussions and personal interviews as a tool for candidate selection rather than directly picking the toppers of the board exam.

College ready freshman

Many of us (esp. the ones who have gone on to pursue a slightly non-conventional college degree or one abroad) must remember the struggles of first year of college. A common reason for such woes is the one shot wonder approach we grew up with. Most of us got schooled in the national curriculum where it’s that “one” board exam that decides the fate of our 12 years of school education. The final exam score has the sole importance in the national curriculum.

Unlike this, in the International curriculums (and in college) the importance is mostly spread across multiple assessments (oral assessments, research paper, project work, internal assessment, presentations, tests) along with the final examination. Assessments and years are grouped together to award a cumulative final grade.

The 100% of education

If your idea of future workforce ready children goes beyond exam ready students to students actually capable of generating new ideas, sieving them through critical analysis and reflection and moving them through to application, a well implemented International curriculum may well be worth considering.

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