Taking the global path to success
The English Schools Foundation switched from the UK curriculum to the IB for learning with a more international style.
[First published on 8 June, 2015] Hong Kong’s English Schools Foundation (ESF) has shown an enthusiastic commitment to the IB programmes.
All nine of the ESF’s primary schools, its four kindergartens and the primary section of both of its private independent schools follow the PYP.
Similarly, each of the five ESF secondary schools, as well as the two private independent schools, pursues the DP – although only the latter two offer the MYP.
The ESF’s primary teaching and learning advisor, Rebecca Clements, explains why the organisation first decided to introduce the IB curriculum into its schools.
“Our primary schools were following the UK national curriculum and we felt that this particular curriculum was not meeting the needs of the vast majority of our students,” she says. “We looked at different options and decided that the PYP was the best fit for our students as it was conceptbased, transdisciplinary and had international mindedness as a core tenet.”
The ESF’s private independent school in Ma On Shan, Renaissance College, is one of the few schools in the world authorised to offer all four IB programmes: the PYP, the MYP, the DP and the CP.
“One of the reasons parents choose us is because the PYP and MYP are enquiry-based and the students are active learners,” says Dr Harry Brown, principal of Renaissance College. “The students who really thrive on our programmes are the independent learners.”
Brown can point to some clear advantages to his school’s full adoption of the IB framework.
“When it comes to IB learner attitudes and pedagogy, students are speaking the same language throughout. It’s a more seamless transition,” he says.
Also, he believes, MYP students avoid unnecessary pressure in Year 11.
“Because the Year 13 IB Diploma exam is a high-stakes exam, we don’t feel the need to put another one in there, such as the IGCSEs, because we get the results we need at the end.
“And in all areas we ‘backwards design’ and spiral our curriculum with the concepts that are needed in the Year 13 exams: maths, science, humanities, and all the different subjects we offer. We spiral it back as far as the PYP, but this is particularly true within the MYP.”
Brown notes that the fact his school’s teachers also teach in the MYP adds rigour to that programme.
He is keen to point out that students cannot fail a DP – they will get a score indicative of how well they’ve done – so there is no danger a student will be left with nothing because they did not take formal external exams in Year 11.
“Even if you got a three or a four on a scale of seven, in say, a maths exam, it does tell the university that you’re applying to that you’ve followed a very rigorous curriculum that’s university-based,” Brown points out.
“The courses are all university-level – basically, university foundation courses done over two years. That’s why so many universities are eager to enrol IB Diploma students,” he says.
Brown goes on to explain that the broadness of the two-year programme creates a wellrounded individual who is ready for university.
“They are proficient in a first language, they are proficient in a second language, they’ve all studied maths, science, humanities and the arts, as well as a course called theory of knowledge, and they’ve written a 4,000- word senior thesis that’s been externally moderated, and done at least 150 hours community service,” he says.
As long they can handle the level of English required, Brown says the students from local schools who enter Renaissance College in Year 12 enjoy the teamwork, the camaraderie with teachers, the smaller classes and the atmosphere at school. They also tend to do well on the DP.
Last year, more than 900 Year 13 students across the ESF’s five secondary schools and two private independent schools completed the DP. Out of all of them, 98 per cent achieved the full DP, with 55.4 per cent achieving 35 or more IB points, and 22.1per cent achieving 40 or more points.
The average score for students was 35 points and 13 ESF students were able to achieve the maximum 45 points.