2020 will go down in history as a pivotal year – one in which our concept of reality has been turned on its head. But that hasn’t stopped King’s College Madrid from launching its forward-thinking International Baccalaureate (IB) program – paving the way for other King’s schools to embark on this exciting educational quest to prepare the next generation for similarly challenging scenarios.
According to the IB official website, more than 5,000 schools globally have now switched to the IB curriculum, persuaded by its emphasis on personal development as well as its broader and more thought-provoking academic program.
As David Murphy, King’s College Madrid’s Director of Secondary Academic, said before the IB launch, “IB students not only learn how to learn but also how to be empathetic and great global citizens.”
Now three months down the road, both teachers and students at King’s College Madrid have had a chance to assess the route they have chosen, one that, according to David, nurtures the skills that employers are increasingly seeking, such as creativity, flexibility and the ability to adapt to whatever circumstances we might find ourselves in.
“IB has captivated the minds of our students in its inauguration year here,” says Póla Cuinnea, Pastoral Director of Secondary at King’s College Madrid who is coordinating the program. “COVID 19 and the on-going restrictions have not held us back. Our students are delving deep into their chosen areas of study and their learning has become more stimulating than ever.”
One of the most interesting core subjects in the IB curriculum is Theory of Knowledge, which, as Secondary teacher Juliette Robinson says, allows students to come at their learning from a completely different angle.
“Theory of Knowledge links strongly to the fundamental principles of IB study and aims to produce internationally-minded and reflective students who are better equipped at making decisions and understanding the consequences of those decisions in the world beyond school,” she says.
The Theory of Knowledge is the “analytical” core component of the IB curriculum, designed to complement the more practical Creativity Activity Service (CAS) project and the Extended Essay, and, according to Juliette, challenges students to question where we get our knowledge from.
“This applies not just to IB material, but also to the knowledge they have of the wider world,” she says. “It encourages students to reflect upon how we acquire knowledge of the news or political processes, for example, and how this affects our decision-making in democratic systems.”
Juliette adds that students also focus upon other factors that affect our acquisition of knowledge, such as technology and language. “The huge strides made in intelligent and nanotechnology in recent years will undoubtedly shape their future lives,” she says. “And as international students studying in English, the way they interact with others can be viewed in large part through the prism of language. Through lessons that encourage reading, reflection and passionate discussion, not to mention practical activities such as the exhibition that they are working towards, students are encouraged to question what they know and how they know it. Developing a firm and ethical understanding of knowledge and how it can be used to make informed and responsible decisions is essential.”
While the Theory of Knowledge exercises students’ critical faculties, the CAS project has proved one of the most popular parts of the IB, with initiatives involving mental health awareness, refugee support programs and the environment.
As Póla suggests, “The skills gained from such projects not only increases students independence but provides them with the opportunity to understand more about their community and their place in the world.”
For IB student, Ignacio, the CAS has proved the most exciting aspect of the curriculum. “The opportunity to have a meaningful impact is what I’ve liked the most,” he says. “My CAS project aims to give Christmas at King’s a personal King’s touch. We do so by building and decorating the Christmas tree, both for Primary and Secondary, with the aim of selling ornaments that can be decorated by the students so we have a Christmas tree decorated by the King’s Community. Furthermore, the money collected by selling the ornaments will be donated to charity. Overall, this project unites the King’s community even more to celebrate Christmas in this exceptional situation.”
With a sort of “practice what you preach” twist, King’s College Madrid has managed to successfully roll out this new educational initiative in the most trying of circumstances as though providing IB students with the perfect example of what the program will prepare them for.
Now all eyes are on the future with Póla explaining that, as the next cohort of students prepare to embark on the IB journey, King’s IB pioneers will be able to help them select study programs that will best suit their needs by sharing their own personal experience to date.