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Working together

Teaching children how to motivate and challenge each other through the IB.

Photographs: Copenhagen International School

Text: Staff Writer

In Primary School, the International Baccalaureate (IB) aims to develop not only the intellectual but also the emotional and physical potential of each child in a safe and caring environment.

Copenhagen International School (CIS) co-founded the IB in 1968 – only five years after the school had been established. The curriculum is well respected the world over for enabling students to prepare for the challenges of modern society. Transcending every corner of the globe, it allows children to freely move countries while effortlessly slipping back into their programmes.

Inquiry-based learning and tailored attention

Individual attention and a ‘whole-child approach’ are high up on the priority list of teachers at CIS, according to the primary school’s deputy principal Moira Christensen.

While students are taught to be ‘well-rounded global citizens’ and encouraged to work together within a broader community, teachers never forget to ensure that every child’s individual needs are met too.

“This is very important to us,” says Christensen over a zoom call while social distancing. “We encourage students to ask questions; in fact, a lot of our teaching is inquiry-based. It’s a two-way process and in line with one of our core values of inclusion. We include our students in the teaching/learning process.”

And why is that important? “Because if we realise that a student already knows something, what’s the point in wasting precious time? We move on and teach something new,” she adds.

A top limit of 22 students per class in Primary School allows each student to receive tailored attention – a service that is highly valued in today’s international classroom.

5th grader Anne-Mette says she values inclusion deeply and is very passionate about including all sort of people in her life.

"These students will no doubt have a good impact, not only on our community but on the entire world." - Nathan, PhE Teacher, CIS

“Since inclusion is one of our school values, we like to talk about it and how we should include people no matter their differences,” she says. “I also talk about it at home because it is on the news a lot and I like to discuss it. I’m very passionate about everyone being included, no matter how different they are.”

Nathan Foolchand, PHE teacher at CIS, gives us a real-life example of inquiry-based learning that ties into the school’s philosophy of a ‘sustainable world.’

“Some students were curious about our water taps that shut off automatically after a certain amount of time,” explains Nathan, “so we taught them all about the water cycle and the importance of it for the environment and the planet. These students, in turn, will no doubt have a good impact, not only on our community but on the entire world.”

"We encourage students to ask questions; in fact, a lot of our teaching is inquiry-based" - Moira Christensen, Deputy Principal, Primary School, CIS

Values are paramount

According to Christensen, the school has specific values of its own. These include ‘growth, integrity and compassion’ and are an integral part of everyday life at CIS, whether on the playground or in the classroom.

“In the IB we believe these greater values are more important than the content that we teach,” explains Christensen. “The knowledge and the skills and all the other things that we teach here at school are essential, but they’re not as important as, say, how to be a good human being.”

And to do this, she says, the IB often picks themes that students have to work with. The last one was the theme of ‘Heroes’. Students were asked to identify with real-life heroes (like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King for example) and then learn and research about them. This, in turn, according to her, gives students a higher purpose and a deeper understanding of the school’s core values.

Luna was one such participant of the ‘Heroes’ theme, and she chose Anne Frank as her hero. “I’m drawing her apartment,” she says, “I’m trying to make this apartment look like a book since she wrote in her diary. She managed to be quiet every day.”

"You can do better" is key

But while the IB curriculum might be more inclusive and fun than other current curricula, is it unrealistic and does it prepare students for the big bad world? Both Christensen and Foolchand disagree vehemently.

“No, I don’t think the IB is unrealistic,” says Christensen. “For us, it’s about how can you be your best? How ‘you’ can be better? We want kids to persevere of course, and we want kids to challenge themselves, but we want to teach them to do it together, not pitted against one another. The IB is certainly not about ‘whatever you do is good enough,’ not at all! I think that’s a big misconception about the IB. Sometimes we say ‘this isn’t good enough because you can do better,’ but not because your neighbour has beaten you. And that is what is key.”

Foolchand insists that they don’t like to do the whole winning and losing scenario because that’s not what it’s all about; it’s about individual development. But he also agrees that it’s important for students to know that sometimes they will win, and sometimes they won’t, but that’s OK.

“One of the biggest differences between British-based methods of teaching and the IB is that the teaching here is based on inquiry,” explains Foolchand. “It comes from the students rather than from the teacher. This is a huge advantage of the IB system. In the British system it would be ‘today we’re going to learn about water, then we’re going to learn about rivers and so on and so forth, whereas here, we first ask, ‘what do you know about water?’ And that is what makes all the difference. Instead of telling, we elicit, and then we educate.”

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