jueves, 15 de febrero de 2018

On the road to IB English

As you may know, the Levante International School is a candidate school for the International Baccalaureate DP and MYP programs, but, what does this all mean? And how is the teaching and learning of English different in the IB from what we have been doing so far in the Spanish Secondary and Baccalaureate programs?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program wants its students to be thinkers, communicators, people with integrity and with an open mind, bold, and balanced. It asks teachers to provide intellectual challenges for students. At school, we will start teaching the Diploma Program (DP) the next academic year, and gradually we will also incorporate the Middle Years Program (MYP), equivalent to the Spanish Secondary years.

For the time being, let us look at the DP and at how English works within this program. The Diploma Program is one course that lasts for two academic years (equivalent to the Spanish Baccalaureate), and students work on six subjects in this program: one Language A (their mother tongue), one Language B (English in our school), one Humanities or Social Studies, one Experimental Science, one Maths and one Arts. Students choose one subject from each group, and they can choose two from one group if they do not wish to do an Arts subject. Besides the six subjects, the DP has three compulsory components: Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Creativity, Action and Service (CAS), and Extended Essay. These three core components interact with the six subjects. For example, a student can do their Extended Essay in English or use English to carry out their CAS project in their community.

Normally, three of the academic subjects are taught at Higher Level (HL) and three others at Standard Level (SL). English at school will be taught at Higher Level because of the extensive background knowledge of the language that our students possess when they reach the DP course. This implies a minimum of 240 hours of class over the two years, instead of just 150 for the SL subjects and, in the case of English, it also involves the study of English literature, which is not dealt with at Standard Level.

The English subject curriculum has three compulsory topics that every class needs to work on: communication and media, global issues and social relationships. In addition to these, teachers can choose to work on two optional topics among the following: science and technology, customs and traditions, cultural diversity and leisure and health. Both the core and the optional topics are divided into more approachable sub-topics. Attention to sociocultural aspects is as important as communicative skills and linguistic components, and grammar is always meant to be taught in context. As far as assessment is concerned, there is both an internal and an external evaluation. The external part is sent to the IB organization to mark, and the internal one is assessed at school, but also forwarded to the IB for moderation and feedback. Rubrics are employed to assess the different components.

Teachers preparing to work in the IB must study their Subject Guide published by the IB organization and attend a training workshop in order to be certified. The workshop covers areas such as course planning, teaching techniques, the different exam papers, the intercultural dimension of the IB or the links between Theory of Knowledge and a subject such as English. Workshops are a great opportunity to meet and network with teachers from other schools who are in a similar process and to exchange information and help each other.

All in all, it is an exciting process to be a part of, a process of adapting to a new methodology that has been tested for many years and that produces students who are much more prepared to face their university degrees in an increasingly international reality.

Javier García Sebastià
English Department Coordinator