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07 Aug, Sunday
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Montreal Families

International education not just for top students

In Quebec, 97 high schools offer a stream of education referred to as the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program (MYP). Created and supervised by a Geneva-based organization called the International Baccalaureate (IB), the program strives to instill in students 10 characteristics, such as being open-minded and active learners, through an education that emphasizes inter-cultural awareness and community involvement.

Teachers and staff who work at schools with this designation must undergo rigorous screening and training. There are also high expectations of the students, who are required to do community service and an in-depth project in their final year. As a result, many schools limit participation to top students, requiring young people to pass an entrance exam. However, at least two Montreal-area schools are exploring ways to incorporate the IB philosophy for all students.

Lakeside Academy

Jane Preston, the MYP coordinator at Lakeside, has taught math under the IB program for eight years. She says she feels that it could be adapted for all students at the school. “It’s about making connections in a real, significant way between what young people are learning in the classroom and the world around them,” she says. “Why shouldn’t all students have that opportunity?”

So last year, Lakeside decided to apply the IB philosophy to all its programs, including Work-Study, French Immersion and the English Core Program. Preston offers this example about how it works in two different math classes. In her MYP math course, Preston asks students to use statistical analyses to explore topics like marriage, birth, divorce rates, using data from Quebec, Canada and another country.

“I get them to look outside of their little world and we discuss what the differences between countries actually mean.” Many students embrace the project whole-heartedly, she adds, creating elaborate presentations with strong visuals.

Inspired by Preston’s work, a teacher from the Work-Study program decided to try it with her students. Although the mathematical concepts they were dealing with were a bit simpler, the young people were still asked to use data from around the world. They were doing the project on their level but it had an international perspective.

Preston says that response from teachers, staff, students and parents has been excellent. “What we are trying to do is enhance the children’s education.”

École secondaire Mont-Royal

This school offers the MYP as well as a regular diploma program but, starting in 2011, it will offer three streams, all influenced by the IB philosophy.

The first one will be an “enriched” program open to those who pass an entrance exam. Principal Charles Vien explains that schools offering the IB programs in French are overseen by an organization called SÉBIQ (Société des écoles du monde du BI du Québec et de la francophonie). This organization offers schools the possibility of teaching an “enriched” MYP, which includes requirements for a third language, for example. Vien notes that this enriched program was created to help francophone public schools compete with private schools for students. Young people in the enriched stream will receive a diploma from the Quebec education ministry as well as two certificates of attestation — one for the MYP and one from the SÉBIQ.

The second stream will offer the MYP program and students will receive a diploma and an MYP attestation. Students do not have to pass an entrance exam to participate in the program.

The third stream is called “Appui” and it is for students whose grades normally would not make them eligible for an IB program. The principal says the school is going to use resources like tutoring and resource teachers to help weaker students benefit from an immersion in the IB philosophy.

The “Appui” students will be encouraged to strive for the MYP attestation, but if they don’t, they will at least receive a regular high school diploma. “We intend to keep all our students for the five years and see them graduate,” Vien says.

Young people entering the workforce, be it in a professional area or a trade, are now facing a global economy in which they will be expected to understand and work with people from around the world. The IB programs offer a global perspective, making them a winning choice for many students.

What is the Middle Years Program?

The MYP program is for students ages 11-16. It covers eight subject areas: humanities, technology, mathematics, art, sciences, physical education and two languages. But all these topics are taught through what the IB organization calls “areas of interaction,” which help students make connections between everything they are learning and the world around them. The five areas of interaction include approaches to learning, community and service, human ingenuity, environments as well as health and social education.

For more information on the MYP or other IB programs, visit www.ibo.org.

Information about French-language IB programs can be found on the SÉBIQ site, www.sebiq.ca.

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