The Importance Of A 21st Century Curriculum: The International Primary Curriculum

Good schools employ a method of ‘backwards planning’ whereby they identify the skills, concepts, and knowledge that students require at graduation and begin the process in Early Years and Primary education

I was standing in a corridor that had been transformed into a rainforest, the students were engaged in a ‘Wow Day’ not only being motivated by what they were doing but also thinking about the way in which they could extend their learning by asking their own questions to plan their studies. They were making connections with their previous work on Chocolate: where they had not only enjoyed making the product (after visiting a local factory), designing the packaging, forming a company and selling it to some shops but understood the chemistry of its composition and the geography of where the cocoa beans came from. Geography had become connected to History and Ethics as they debated why the farmers only received a small amount for their goods. Everywhere were groups of students working purposefully together, being reminded to listen to each other and pushed into higher levels of thinking by their teachers. And, the children knew the purpose of why they were learning. They understood and they applied their knowledge in fun real-world situations. Parents explained how their sons and daughters were changed people as they refused to leave school and started to ask challenging questions at home about everything they did. Children had begun think for themselves and with a purpose. I thought: ‘anything that can make excited learners out of five-year-olds must be worth looking at’. 

As parent’s, we appreciate the importance of education for young learners. Indeed, establishing the right kind of learning experience in the ideal supportive challenging environment, where your child is happy and enjoys going to school, is crucial to establishing a foundation for success in later life. Good schools employ a method of ‘backwards planning’ whereby they identify the skills, concepts, and knowledge that students require at graduation and begin the process in Early Years and Primary education. We know that happy, confident, expressive and engaged learners will reach their full potential. Obviously, great teachers are a key in this. But often, a child’s development can be limited by not experiencing a vibrant and educationally challenging curriculum. 

At GICLM, we researched and debated hard about which curriculum would be most suitable to give our students and their parents the education that they deserve. Our aim is simple: to establish high academic standards and achievement, within a values-based environment, that challenges children to explore the world around them, through exciting and relevant learning. And so, we chose the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). Why? Because it is an internationally-minded (though it centres all learning initially in a child’s national culture and traditions), thematic, cross-curricular and rigorous teaching structure used by more than 15,000 teachers in over 2000 schools in 98 countries globally (2018 IPC webpage). It is fresh to India but has 30 years of worldwide professional learning behind it.

A school still needs to have a strong separate Maths, English and Science curriculum. Though the IPC does make wonderful connections to Science through many practical applications of scientific ideas and experiments. The IPC has clear Learning Goals that connect all other areas of learning like History and Geography, Art, Music, Literature, Language, ICT, PE using global themes. Units of Learning are available from a vast library of teacher-developed resources that offer a wealth of experiences. For instance, how fun it is to be faced with: Who Am I?, The Magic Toymaker, Buildings, Chocolate, Flowers and Insects, Active Planet, Young Entrepreneurs, Mission to Mars, Superheroes and What Price Progress rather than normal topic headings. These ‘units’ are carefully constructed so that children begin to see the big picture of their learning, make connections across different subjects and talk about a topic from multiple perspectives. Year on year the children develop their personal skills, knowledge and conceptual appreciation to higher connected levels through creative challenges. Holding everything together is special ‘Learning Units’ where using age-appropriate materials teachers and students explore the very latest scientific research that enables children to begin to examine how they actually learn. What amazed me was to see such young people reflecting on what they had done and being able to come up with strategies on how they could improve. No longer were they being judged on how much information they could repeat or remember for an examination, but they were assessed by the skills they had demonstrated, their creative ideas and how they work as learners in groups and by themselves. Knowledge is not replaced. Rather, it forms the basis of all Units and the children really acquire many key facts. But, the information is relevant and important because it has been acquired in a practical situation of rigorous learning. And, this is where the skills of the teachers come to the foremost. Highly professional, trained and lifelong learners the staff challenge themselves to become engaged in the learning process and understand fully the strengths that all children have. And they have the skills to draw out the potentials that all children offer.

So, as ‘thought leaders’ I would suggest that we ponder on the IPC’s own Learning Principles (2017, Curriculum Overview PPT):

The early years of life are important in their own right.

Children should be supported to learn and develop at their own unique pace.

A play is an essential aspect of all children’s learning and development.

Learning happens when developmentally appropriate teacher scaffolded and child-initiated experiences harness children’s natural curiosity in an enabling environment.

Independence and interdependent learning experiences create a context for personal development and are the foundation of national and international mindedness.

Knowledge and skills development lead to an increasing sense of understanding when children are provided with opportunities to explore and express their ideas in multiple ways.

Ongoing assessment in the form of evaluation and reflection is effective when it involves a learning-link with the home.

Learning should be motivating, engaging and fun, opening up a world of wonder for children where personal interests can flourish.

So at Garodia International Centre For Learning Mumbai, we have learners who are independent, communicate (in a variety of languages), are enquiring and importantly understand about healthy living and physical well-being. I know as a Principal that we are fostering and capturing the curiosity of our young learners so that they become strong academics later in school. Even more, I know that we are developing the skills of citizenship and leadership that will make them key members of our future society. If we are going to change the world for the better, then we need to start young and we need to start with a curriculum that allows you to do so.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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