By Anne Keeling, Media Relations, International Primary Curriculum
In our challenging global, interdependent world, it is so important for children to receive a good education. Getting a primary curriculum right is more difficult today than it’s ever been because it has to meet so many crucial goals.
Of all these goals, the most essential ones are:
- Rigorous learning: ensuring a blend of knowledge, skills and understanding across a broad range of subjects.
- High levels of children’s engagement: so that children enjoy their learning and stick to it.
- International, global and intercultural awareness: many opportunities open to our current generation of children will be in countries and cultures different from the one in which they are growing up in. So many problems, both global and local will be solved through cooperation.
- The development of personal dispositions: qualities such as adaptability, morality, respect, resilience, enquiry, cooperation, communication and thoughtfulness, which will help them on their journey through life.
- Supporting teachers and schools: Providing teachers and schools with everything they might need to make the curriculum work to its very best for every single child.
A curriculum that thoroughly meets each of these priority areas is not easy to pull off. However feedback from schools around the world including St Joseph’s Institution International Elementary School and The Winstedt School in Singapore, and over 80 schools throughout South East Asia suggests that one curriculum – the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) is well on the way. So much so that the IPC is one of the most successful primary curriculums in the world today.
The IPC was introduced in 2000 after several years in development and combined the expertise of many skilled curriculum writers, school leaders and teachers from all over the world. It remains in development today to ensure a current and highly relevant curriculum that continues to evolve. No one can properly predict the nature of work that will be available for today’s primary age children by the time they are adults. Many of the jobs they will have simply don’t yet exist, especially in the fields of ICT, technology and science. So the principle of the IPC is to focus on personal, academic and international learning that will prepare children, wherever they may live, for the world of tomorrow.
So how does the IPC achieve the essential goals for a successful curriculum today?
Learning with the IPC – Engaging Children
We all know that children learn best when they want to learn. That’s why the IPC has over 80 different thematic units of learning. They are all child-friendly, modern-day topics appealing to all ages of primary children; themes such as I’m Alive, Inventions and Machines, and Global Swapshop. Teachers use the theme to excite and engage children. This enables young children to remain motivated through the learning of science, geography, history, music, art and so on. It also allows them to make purposeful links throughout their learning and to see how their subject learning is related to the world they live in.
Within each theme, the IPC suggests many ideas for collaborative learning, for active learning, for learning outside the classroom, for role play, and for children learning from each other.
The IPC’s engaging approach also encourages parental involvement. Children, inspired by their learning, talk freely to family members about what they’ve done at school and often choose to continue their learning at home. Parental involvement is also promoted through extended learning ideas and end of unit Exit Point events that frequently involve parents, offering them the chance to see and participate in some of the learning that has been going on.
Learning with the IPC – Rigorous Learning
Each IPC unit incorporates many subjects including science, history, geography, ICT, art and PE and provides many opportunities to incorporate language arts and mathematics. Each subject has a number of learning tasks to help teachers to help their children meet a range of learning goals set out in the curriculum. These learning goals are deliberately explicit; designed to make sure that teachers distinguish clearly between children’s learning of knowledge, skills and understanding.
Take, for example, the IPC Chocolate unit. In history, children explore the discovery of chocolate, the period it was discovered, the motivation for discovery and the changing attitude to chocolate through the ages. In geography they look at the countries that grow cacao and how particular localities have been affected by its production and by slash and burn. They look at the links between countries that grow cacao and countries that produce chocolate. In art children look at how chocolate is sold and how packaging is designed. In science, children look at the energy values in foodstuff and explore the effects of heating and cooling, and so on; six weeks of learning in all subjects, all connected to the theme of Chocolate. This not helps children to see a purpose for their learning but helps them to make links in their learning which, as the latest research into the brain tells us, helps improve learning.
Learning with the IPC – Intercultural Awareness
So many of our problems, the world over, at local and global level are caused by different groups not knowing or respecting each other. That is why the IPC places such priority on the teaching of international mindedness; to help children develop a greater appreciation for others. To achieve this, each IPC unit has embedded within it, learning-focused activities that help young children to start developing a global awareness and gain an increasing sense of other people. Every IPC unit creates opportunities to look at learning of the theme through a local perspective, a national perspective and an international perspective.
With many schools in 85 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.
Learning with the IPC – Developing Personal Dispositions
The personal dispositions we form as individuals are established over time with constant use and that’s how the IPC views children’s learning of personal skills. The opportunities to experience and practise very specific personal dispositions are built into the learning tasks within each thematic unit. 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. 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.
Supporting Teachers and Schools
Each IPC unit has a very structured yet flexible teaching framework providing teachers with a series of learning tasks. These are designed to help teachers 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. However, the learning tasks are purely a guide and provide plenty of scope for creative teaching, personalisation to the class and locality, and development on the theme as well as linking with other schools learning with the IPC. With IPC member schools in over 80 countries as diverse as Swaziland, Qatar, Japan, Russia, UK and Singapore, this sharing of learning opportunities ensures that no school, however remote, feels isolated.
The IPC in Malaysia
So what do schools in Singapore think of the IPC? “There is real depth to the IPC,” says Principal of Elementary at St Joseph’s Institution International Elementary School, Louise Grant. “It takes us through a learning process that immediately engages children and helps them to see a purpose to what they’re learning.” And Jennifer Chadam, Head of Communications and Development at The Winstedt School says: “I am amazed at the learning that takes place each week and what a strong educational foundation the IPC builds for children.”
The International Primary Curriculum is part of Fieldwork Education which, since 1984, has been helping schools around the world to develop children’s learning. Because of the growth of the curriculum in schools throughout South East Asia, Fieldwork Education has now opened an office in Kuala Lumpur to support all new and established IPC member schools. For more information about the IPC visit www.greatlearning.com/ipc