Principal, Secondary Years Message

Last Thursday, GEMS (Singapore) hosted an education summit titled Designing Future Education, organized in partnership with the Finnish Embassy in Singapore and the city of Helsinki as part of the worldwide celebrations of Finland’s 100-year-birthday.

I was very pleased to see so many GEMS parents in attendance: IB World Schools around the world (and obviously, the Finnish national system of education) are attempting to educate their students for the future by adopting IB programmes and the IB Learner profile attributes.

Having decided to send their children to an international school, parents have made a decision to embrace the IB philosophy underpinning the curricula and the implementation.

This philosophy and approach is outlined in an excellent short publication What is IB Education? and can be summarized in the following points:

  • Create educational opportunities that encourage healthy relationships, individual and shared responsibility and effective teamwork and collaboration
  • Help students make informed, reasoned, ethical judgments and develop the flexibility, perseverance and confidence they need in order to bring about meaningful change
  • Inspire students to ask questions, to pursue personal aspirations, to set challenging goals and to develop the persistence to achieve them
  • Encourage the creation of rich personal and cultural identities.

While there continues to be content (yes, there is an expectation that an educated person should know the date of Battle of Hastings, and the name of the first man on the Moon), the ‘future education’ is really about ‘transferable skills’, working with others, making ethical decisions considering a wide range of factors, being a life-long learner and a critical and creative thinker.

The assessment model then reflects this approach: three of the four MYP criteria for each subject assess skills such as communicating (Language acquisition, Individuals and societies, Mathematics), thinking creatively (Arts), organizing or planning (Language and literature and PE), reflecting (Sciences, PE).

All assessment is criterion-related where students must master all strands of specific criteria at lower achievement levels before they can be considered to have achieved the next level (MYP From principles into practice, 2017).

This process is gradual and should reflect improvement over time. There is also a significant difference between ‘raw scores’ and ‘final marks’.

As we approach the quarter 1 reports, it is important to reiterate the points above as they form the part of ‘designing future education’; when most of us (parents and teachers) have gone through ‘traditional’ education, we sometimes struggle to remember the principles behind the IB (and in particular MYP) assessment model: it is criterion-referenced, marks should improve over time, and the final mark (which is not stated on the quarter report) is a best fit approach, not a mathematical average of attained raw scores.

All grades in ManageBac and on quarter reports should be read in conjunction with the published subject criteria – in any criterion-referenced situations, the isolated number (for example 5 out of 8) is meaningless unless the reader also studies the criterion descriptor to see what the skill level is.

Finally, I would also like to remind the school community about SY blogs – these are now updated frequently and can be accessed on computers as well as mobile devices.

Keep checking regularly to stay up to date with your child’s learning!

Jan Stipek
, Secondary Years Principal

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