x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

IB for young pupils offered in capital

The American International School-Abu Dhabi gains authorisation from the International Baccalaureate to offer the Primary Years Programme.

ABU DHABI // The American International School has become the first school in Abu Dhabi to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum for young pupils, and only the third in the Emirates to do so. The IB primary years programme (PYP), a companion to the more famous diploma programme for secondary schools, is designed for children aged three to 12. "We are all big believers in the IB," said Gareth Jones, the director of the American International School (AISA), which has offered the IB diploma programme for 12 years. "It's really a stamp of recognition from outside. It's similar to an accreditation really." AISA, which has been a candidate school for the primary years programme for more than four years, earned the accreditation in the first week of December. There are a handful of other candidates up for authorisation in the UAE, including Raha International School in Abu Dhabi. The international baccalaureate was founded in Geneva in 1968, designed to offer a rigorous high school diploma programme for the children of diplomats and other global nomads. In addition to a hefty academic load, pupils in the diploma programme are required to do community service. The foundation launched its middle years programme and the primary years programme decades later, and there are now more than 678,000 students from 2,493 public and private schools in 132 countries enrolled in one of the three programmes. The PYP aims to educate the "whole child" by encouraging them to question everything, said Mr Jones. "It's very much a child-focused programme? it's a whole way of teaching focusing on inquiry-based learning and student-centred teaching and learning, which is not revolutionary but it's good practice from around the world." Unlike the IB diploma programme, which has strict curriculum requirements, the PYP gives teachers considerable flexibility in designing their lessons. The essential framework involves six subject areas such as language, maths, arts and science as well as a half-dozen more abstract themes, each explored for six weeks at a time. Yesterday, Grade 5 pupils working on the theme "where we are in place and time" were asked to research their favourite explorers and encouraged to present their findings to the rest of the class in a variety of ways, whether through a puppet show or Power Point presentation. Meanwhile, pupils in kindergarten were working on a "sharing the planet" theme, exploring the world beneath the sea. The students created big, colourful octopuses to hang in the hallway and decorated a cork board nearby with boots and rubbish as a reminder of things that should not be in the sea. Inside Emily Hays's kindergarten classroom, pupils were getting to the bottom of why the sea is salty. "We put outside some water with salt in it to see if it will dissolve," said Micah Mangrum, one of the pupils. "What is the word we use?" prodded Ms Hays. "Evaporate," Micah said. "So we can see if some salt is left behind." One of the benefits of PYP is exposure to the same areas and concepts at different levels, said Robert Evans, the school principal. "There is a continuity from when they enter elementary school and when they leave," he said. klewis@thenational.ae