Monday, 5 May 2008

Being Brave - setting new standards in teaching and learning with the International Baccalaureate!

One of the very many professional development seeions under way.
A key part of the holistic transformation of the education service in Cayman was been the creation of a new national curriculum that is locally relevant but internationally recognised. The completed new Caymanian National Curriculum, written with the help of dozens of teachers, will be mandatory for all Government Primary schools from September 2008.
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A vital aspect of this work has been a move to adopt the teaching and learning styles that form a key aspect of the International Baccalaureate programme, and indeed to move towards the national adoption of this standard. Our interest in this revolves around ensuring that every teacher uses a full range of teaching and learning styles, including project work, to encourage all students, what ever their ability, to be engaged in their own learning.
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This week, I am excited that six of Cayman’s Primary schools completed their application for recognition under the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme (PYP). Beyond these six schools, all primary teachers in the public system have received Level 1 training for PYP. We believe these are the first state primary schools in the Caribbean to register for this programme.
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Additionally a pilot project introducing the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) Diploma programme will begin in September 2009, with full implementation in September 2010, offering a ‘gateway to excellence’ for Caymanian students within the government school system.
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As we are well into the 21st century, any holistic review of an education system or national curriculum cannot get involved, as many still are, with tinkering around the edges. Decisions and aspirations have to be bold, and those people leading education systems have to be clear in identifying these aspirations to all people involved with the system.
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I am still quoted in conferences by
Professor Stephen Heppell and Prakash Nair in the need for education systems to "be brave and be brave enough to continue to be brave" I still believe that far more people need to be braver if any real transformation work is to take place.
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This move in the Cayman Islands clearly flags a move to achieve excellence in teaching and learning throughout the service. The I.B. framework and support is great, but the an even greater thing is that there are clear standards that everyone, the education service, the schools and the teachers, have to adopt and achieve (that are externally verified), in order to achieve full accreditation. This is challenging - but the Cayman Islands have taken the challenge and intend to achieve it!

This is the first step towards Cayman's aspiration to be the only nation in the world where ALL government primary schools are successfully bench-marked against this internationally recognized standard.
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Whilst this would be fantastic, I must repeat that the clear purpose is better teaching and learning for our students, no matter what their ability - that's why we are here after all!

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