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How the IB sparks children's inspiration

The International spoke with teachers at Copenhagen International School to learn more about how they help their students flourish in an ever-changing society.

Photographs: Amanda Ketten

Text: Jakob Weizman

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is at the forefront of international schools around the world, fostering children to become citizens of the planet from the tender age of 3.

Copenhagen International School cofounded the IB in 1968, just five years after the school itself had been established.

The IB is known throughout the world as a well-respected curriculum that enables students to prepare for the challenges of our modern society. Transcending every corner of the globe, it allows children to move around countries and still be able to continue the program, which results in students graduating with the IB Diploma.

Enabling a universal perspective

“The goal is to have sensible and caring citizens of the world,” said Eva Christensen, who teaches Danish to non-native speakers at Copenhagen International School.

“Of course, the kids will learn to read and write, but will they be good citizens, will they be the ones to make a difference? I think the IB does that by sparking inquiry and reflection, asking children to think about who we are, how we express ourselves, how the world works, where we are in place and time, how we organise ourselves and sharing the planet,” added Eva.

Eva herself grew up in an international environment, having now worked at Copenhagen International School for seven years as a teacher for grades one and four, now shifting to teaching Danish to students from kindergarten to grade five.

Being half-Danish and half-Chinese, she grew up in both Hong Kong and Denmark, studied education in the United States and worked previously in international schools in Germany and China that also offered the IB curriculum.

"If something has meaning behind it, they’ll learn it," - Eva Christensen, Teacher

She pointed out the difference in how the IB program at Copenhagen International School encourages kids from a young age to spark their learning through prioritizing the use of intelligible words, such as being a communicator, principled or having integrity, which can enable the children’s growth further through numerous IB themes.

“From the other international schools I worked at, we did shelter the language, which we don’t do at Copenhagen International School, and that’s really positive,” said Eva regarding how students at the school are introduced to these IB themes. “The idea is not to shelter these big words. Instead, we try to ask them what does it sound like, what does it look like, and what does it mean?”

“If something has meaning behind it, they’ll learn it,” she added.

IB stands out from other approaches to education

One of the kindergarten teachers at Copenhagen International School, Christian Bank Pedersen, highlighted the difference between how IB cultivates learning and engagement, in contrast to what he witnessed through his own education in England, where he grew up being half-English, half-Danish.

“I began as a substitute teacher here, and I was thinking about how it’s a different approach here, it was quite endearing to me because we were approaching kids from their own curiosity,” said Christian, who also worked in England and Australia in the education sector, where he pointed out that learning is “crammed into their heads”.

At Copenhagen International School however, “the children are not even thinking about all the skills you’re teaching them, they’re just happy to be doing them,” revealed Christian.

An integral part of the learning experience for schoolchildren is enlightening themselves with various approaches to learning encouraged by the IB program. The idea is to maintain a holistic technique that paves the way for thought-provoking engagement in education from an early age.

“Children are not even thinking about all the skills you’re teaching them, they’re just happy to be doing them.” - Christian Bank Pedersen, Teacher

Both Christian and Eva pointed out the freedom that the IB brings, with countless ideas at hand that allow them to foster the children’s growth, especially through understanding the meaning behind child development.

“Everything is a process, in our world today kids are so focused on the product, that I think it allows them to take a step back and ask themselves, what’s the process?” said Eva.

Flexibility for Students and Parents Alike

Copenhagen International School has a different structure in comparison with the Danish school system. Many expats who work in Copenhagen enrol their kids in the school, who then end up having to move from there once again to a new school. Copenhagen International School offers a flexible option for foreigners moving to Denmark, which allows their child to learn through English, rather than having to learn in Danish in the national system.

A pivotal component of any learning approach is understanding how to adapt to the demands of globalisation and a world that is constantly evolving to higher levels.

“Someone thought about this when creating the curriculum, asking how do we engage with kids at their level, with things that they are interested in. The topics under these themes, 25 years ago, or 15 years ago, look different now than they did back then,” said Eva.

Christian himself spoke in high praise of how influential the styles and standard of learning through the IB at Copenhagen International School.

“What’s so good about the curriculum, for me personally, is seeing the children so interested. I wasn’t interested in my education, it sort of just happened to me,” said Christian. “The IB allows children to go out into the world with their compass tuned into themselves about what they like and don’t like in terms of their interests. I believe they can truly add something to the world, when they know their passions, they’re well-rounded individuals.”

“And even if they don’t know, or haven’t figured it out, at least if you have that guidance system in yourself, you can only go up from there.”

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